Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Around the Table

Many legal resources are ideal for searching online. Noel Whitty highlights some sites for lawyers.

Lawyers have a reputation for conservatism. Jokes still abound about the law professors who refuse to switch on the PC on their desk and defiantly handwrite all their work, then shamelessly thank their secretaries in prefaces for "deciphering unintelligible handwriting". Happily, such types are in a minority as the benefits of information technology are increasingly recognised in legal education and practice.

The subject matter of law can be as diverse or as traditional as one wishes. Consequently, the range of Internet sites of interest to law lecturers, librarians, students and practitioners is vast. What follows is only a personal snapshot of some sites of particular interest to constitutional and human rights lawyers.

Some law specific search tools are Findlaw and Law Society Legal Links. The Georgetown University Law Library, the US House of Representatives Internet Law Library and Internet Gateway: International Sources are excellent general sources of legal information, with many international links. For European law materials, see Edinburgh University's Europa Library.

Most lawyers take account of NGO activity in their area. The NGO Global Network and Human Rights Internet are good starting points. Of particular interest is the American Civil Liberties Union site for access to ACLU briefs and court decisions, and Amnesty International Documents.

An excellent women's human rights bibliography, with country and subject specific sections, is available on DIANA Human Rights Database. For valuable United Nations materials, see the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.

For those interested in constitutional reform, all South African materials are at Witwatersrand Constitutional Law Repository.

Every lawyer should insist on the democratic principle of free access to government information. Must sites are US Supreme Court and Supreme Court of Canada. Compare Australian Legal Resources and US Library of Congress with the UK government's resistance to free access to all HMSO material: UK Government Information Service.

Finally, for information on campaigns against Internet regulation check out Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties (UK).