Access to and knowledge of the law is a presumption underlying our civil society and systems of justice.
“Every citizen is presumed to know the law… and it needs no argument to show that justice requires that all should have free access”
— Nash v. Lathrop (1886)
The right of the people to know and understand the laws that govern them has been described in many ways: as a due process right, as a fundamental right, as a right so foundational to democracy as to need no further justification. Citizens and all branches of government benefit when laws are easy to find and freely available. But the existing legal-publishing paradigm makes it painfully difficult for governments to timely publish accurate and open laws and even more difficult for citizens to access those laws. Indeed, many governments and their citizens must navigate complex processes and pay exorbitant fees to publishers to find out what the law is.
Open Law Library is a 501(c)(3), open-access publisher with a mission to make all official laws freely and openly accessible to governments and their citizens. We make this a possibility by working directly with governments to improve the drafting, codifying and publishing process. Governments use our software and services to reduce the manpower required to draft, codify, and publish laws by an order of magnitude, eliminate entire classes of errors, and codify and publish laws in real-time as they go into effect. Unlike existing publishers, we sustain ourselves on revenues from software and services instead of charging for access to the law. We never restrict access to the law through copyright, terms of service, or fees. This not-for-profit “Open Access Publishing” model, pioneered by scientific journals, aligns our interests with those of our government partners and their citizens.
With this model, we help governments build a foundation of open, accessible, timely, and accurate laws for their community and make it easy for citizens to access and use those laws. With this foundation, governments, their citizens, civic innovators, and private industry can build the tools and processes that will drive government, access to justice, and civic engagement in the new century.
As a team of technologists we believe in the power of well-applied technology to bring about real change. Automation and innovation are not the goal. They are the means to an end. They allow civil servants, already stretched thin, to focus on serving their constituents. They allow important information to be shared quickly and efficiently. And they allow for creative innovation to occur.
But we’re not just focused on the technology. We have strong legal skills too, with four lawyer-programmers on the team. Our legal experience spans civil and criminal law, across state and federal governments, at firms big and small. We have worked with federal judges and senators. And we have served those who needed access to justice the most at public interest organizations. Together, we bring a deep respect for government, a passion for improving access to law, and the technical skills to build a better future.