There are a surprising number of nonlawyers who want to know more about the law. While Google may have made access to legal information easier, it hasn’t completely solved legal information availability. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Bob Ambrogi talks to Tom Bruce, co-founder of the Legal Information Institute (LII), about what the LII is and how it has adapted to changing technology, including using natural language processing techniques to identify defining terms in regulations and statutes and linking together related subjects. They also discuss who the LII serves today and what resources the group offers, including a complete archive of the Supreme Court’s oral argument audio.
Thomas Bruce is the co-founder and director of the Legal Information Institute. An internet and web pioneer, he developed the first web browser for Microsoft Windows.
Law Technology Now
Legal Information Institute: Access to Legal Information for All
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Bob Ambrogi: Welcome to Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. This is your host Bob Ambrogi. My guest today is Tom Bruce, the Director of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Legal Information Institute, my how time flies, and we’re going to be talking to Tom about the history of the LII and what they’re up to now. So Tom Bruce, welcome to our show.
Tom Bruce: Oh, thank you Bob.
Bob Ambrogi: It’s great to talk to you, and thinking about this and I’m wondering how it’s going to be possible for me not to sound like an old fogey in talking about the origins of the Legal Information Institute because the world has so radically changed since you guys got started that I am worried about falling into sounding like my grandparents talking about when I was a kid. But I wondered if you could maybe kind of set the stage for us for what the legal information world looked like 25 years ago before the LII got started.
Tom Bruce: First of all, Bob, I have to tell you that I share the same set of concerns about aging out of this. Actually, it’s funny because you’re putting your finger right on one of the things that I think that I am actually proudest of and that I know that Peter Martin, my cofounder is as well.
When we came on the scene in 19 – well, when I first started working in law schools in 1998 and then leading up into ’92 when we actually started the Institute, it was very clear that it was not just that there was a commercial monopoly on legal information distribution actually really in those days more of a duopoly between LexisNexis and what was then West Publishing.
But that there was a nearly complete intellectual monopoly as well, it was no one outside those companies was really thinking about those issues very much, nobody had data to work with, there was really not much opportunity and so the Internet came along for anyone to say, well, hey, we could try something different here. It was just too expensive to do, it’s too hard to get your hands on a source material, there was no distribution mechanism really by which you could get it in front of the public. And so that was the state of thing. You had two very large, very successful and actually very good commercial providers but there was really no demonstrable alternative to whatever they chose to do. And for the most part what they had chosen to do was go a mile wide and an inch deep, lawyer-oriented legal information services have always had comprehensiveness as their first goal and that’s a very expensive thing to maintain, and it doesn’t leave you a lot of room to go deep on certain kinds of things.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, and you make this point, but their focus was on providing legal information to lawyers but nobody was really thinking about making legal information available to the public at large.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, and to tell you the truth, Bob, I think initially I’m not all that sure that we were either, which is to say it wasn’t that we went into this with a huge sense of mission on behalf of the public, much as our views on that have evolved over a long period of time. It was that we wanted to play, I mean a lot of it was just hot rodding, but we weren’t hot rodding for long before we discovered that there was just this enormous sort of latent need for this stuff out there and that it didn’t fall into the categories that you might have expected and it still does not. Even now that more than 50% of the people who make use of legislative information on our site or on legislation.gov.uk or a number of others that we’re familiar with, the majority is now non-lawyer.
So — but we very quickly became aware of was that there was this very significant audience that was not lawyers and was not people that lawyers imagined would use a system like ours; which is to say, “ordinary citizens having episodic traumatic encounters with the legal system of one kind or another” but was instead non-lawyer professionals. People who were making continuous professional use of law but were not themselves lawyers.
So the obvious examples of people like that are police officers or journalists, but let your mind open up a little further and you start thinking about people like hospital administrators, looking at public benefits law, law enforcement training people, and ultimately, pretty much anybody and everybody in regulated business, which is pretty much anybody and everybody in business.
Bob Ambrogi: The other part of the landscape 25 years ago that’s significant here I think is that the Internet wasn’t really a thing. I mean, the Internet was around but the web — the Internet as we know it today, the web, it really only just started to kind of move out of the lab, the first graphical web browser hadn’t really even been developed yet. I don’t think in 1992 I know you developed one in 1993, and Mark Andreesen’s browser came out in 1993, Mosaic. And this idea of getting legal information on the Internet hadn’t really come along. I mean, there wasn’t legal information on the Internet at that point or there might have been some rudimentary sources through FTP sites or whatever, but what we think of today as access to legal information nobody had thought of at that point, and it seems to me that you and Peter were really pioneers in starting to think about that.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, I don’t think we can claim exclusive credit for that by any means. We were certainly very early to the web. We had about the — I want to say the 30th web server in the world, and we had actually the first professionally oriented website that was not oriented toward high energy physics. Everything out there —
Bob Ambrogi: You had the first legal website too?
Tom Bruce: Yeah — no, absolutely. So Peter had been working extensively at that point, experimenting putting teaching materials and other kinds of resources, statutory supplements for classes and that kind of thing in the CD-ROM form. So hypertext was a thing that we knew about.
And I remember sending a very early memo to the Dean of the Law School here I had to do actually with buying my time out from my day job at that point. That said that given the fact that the web was bringing this hypertext technology and that the Internet had this reach, we could see some very interesting things potentially going on in legal information distribution. But as I say, we started out hot-rodding. We put up portions of the US Code in gopher, if you are old enough to remember that.
Bob Ambrogi: May just the only one listening to you right now.
Tom Bruce: Here is this, who knows that. We did that because it was a great format in which to do stuff that was essentially hierarchical and the statute book was like that, and so we did it with Title 17. I think the web stuff was the third thing that we did. We had done a series of CD-ROM statutory supplements for courses, it was stuff like the Federal Rules before we ever did anything online.
But yeah, I mean we saw that there was an opportunity there. We had been preceded by — Cleveland Free-Net was distributing Supreme Court decisions as early as I want to say it was pre-Hermes, so it was like 1989 or so. They were taking typesetting files, they were taking Atex files from the court and transforming those and putting them online. Atex was a typesetting composition system known to lawyers or lawyers who were around at that time is XyWrite, that was a word processing program that was actually based on Atex. So they done it and there had been a couple of other fitful efforts to distribute limited a mounts of stuff, but that was really about it.
Bob Ambrogi: And Hermes for those who don’t know was what?
Tom Bruce: Oh Hermes was the Supreme Court’s program for doing rapid distribution of Supreme Court opinions to a very, very limited population of subscribers. I think there have never been more than about 20. Most of them were major news organizations. So it’s the legal publishers plus ‘The New York Times’ plus a couple of other newspapers. We joined the subscriber roster I want to say in ’94–’95.
Bob Ambrogi: This is well before the Supreme Court ever had a website of its own. I think at least a decade before the court had its own?
Tom Bruce: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think the Supreme Court started working on their website around ’98–’99, so we had had one up for six or eight years before they did.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah. So what was the original mission and how did you get started? Where did the money come from? Where did the resources come from?
Tom Bruce: The resources originally came from a grant that we got through an organization called NCAIR (The National Center for Automated Information Retrieval), and one of the more amusing ironies of our existence is that we were actually paid — our startup was actually paid for by Lexis Royalties.
NCAIR had been started by Lexis at a time when they were still having to very, very heavily lobby judges to get them to release opinions to them for online distribution, and one of the sweeteners was they said, well, we will put any royalties aside and use it to set up this foundation, we will help with information projects in law and accounting, I think it was.
So we had a pretty substantial startup grant from them that was enough to buy out my time and to fund us for a year or so, but, but really pretty much since then — that lasted us I think about two years, but ever since then we have been to varying degrees on the books of the Cornell Law School, we are now mostly off, but it has been Cornell that has footed the bill for this thing, really right along.
Bob Ambrogi: I alluded to this earlier but it’s always fascinated me that one of the things that you did was develop a web browser, I mean, that kind of tells you the state of technology at that point that you felt obligated to do that. I think if I understood it, it was the first web browser for Windows.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, I mean it was kind of — if you really want to know the truth, it was kind of a software development exercise in body shaming in some ways because we saw no real probability that any of the players then working on web stuff who were largely in a heavily NSF-funded scientific environment that mostly lived in UNIX, and to the extent that it didn’t live in UNIX lived on Macs. We didn’t see any serious possibility that they would undertake development of a Windows oriented browser for quite some time. And so, we thought, oh, what the hell we’ll take a crack at it, and maybe if we do a good enough job or even if we do a very bad one, we can shame somebody who knows what they are doing and to doing a good one, which I think we were ultimately successful at.
I mean, there are still some things about our efforts that I value. I see some of those features coming back in browsers 20 years later, but yeah, it was essentially a gambit to get them to take the Windows audience more seriously because we knew that there were no UNIX desktops and very few Macs in law firms at that point, that’s less true now than it was then, but I think the preponderance were still Windows machines.
Bob Ambrogi: So 25 years later, what have we become? What is the Legal Information Institute today?
Tom Bruce: Well, it’s an interesting question. We’re a number of things. But, what I think we mostly are and is what we’ve always intended to be, which is first and foremost, a creative space in which to work on legal information distribution problems; particularly for non-lawyer audiences but with lawyers there as well. I mean we think about everybody. So how has that shifted?
I don’t think that 25 years later at least in the United States we have a problem with what I would call “legal information availability.” Lots of people can put legal information online, many people have. It’s a matter of time before the output of pretty much every court in the United States, every legislature in the United States is available, and yeah, I know that there are people who will raise questions about copyright barriers and that sort of thing. But from a technical point of view, there’s nothing standing in the way and it’s reasonable to expect that within a very few years, everything that anybody could possibly want will be somewhere on the web.
What there isn’t is a real move toward accessibility and that I think is where we’re mostly concentrating now and that is partly a matter of “improving search” but really improving discoverability and improving integration across collection boundaries, across governmental boundaries, across inter-branch boundaries, I mean, one of the things that I think that we here have thought about far more than anyone else are the problems of getting people to navigate fluidly between statutes regulations and judicial opinions.
The non-lawyer audience is a little bit different and even some lawyers. There are a lot of people out there who are primarily concerned with regulations and who are interested within statutes as a source of authority for those regulations and are interested in judicial opinions as interpretations of those regulations, but they really start with regs and their questions basically revolve around compliance.
So the kind of work we’re doing now is, for example, a project with Sara Frug that’s been underway for a couple of years is to use natural language processing techniques to identify and determine the scope of statutory and regulatory definition so that we can go through the entire statute book, the entire CFR, and mark up all the defined terms, because after all, when it comes to compliance, definitions are very, very, very fundamental. It’s — does this apply to me? Well, look at the definition and it may not be a sort of intuitive definition.
The other kind of thing that we’re working on is, linking law to resources outside of law mostly involving the kind of stuff that the law is regulating. A recent experiment, for example, was to go through everything in the CFR having to do with veterans’ benefits, find all the medical conditions, and link them to the organizational system for medical literature such that you can now click on the medical condition and find effectively all the scientific papers at NIH that have to do with that condition.
So we’re starting to do that with more-and-more stuff. And honestly, in one sense that’s very different from what we were doing in 1992 but it’s also not, what our software developers asked me not long ago. Well, why are we doing all this stuff if we’re not sure that anybody’s going to make use of it? And I just looked at them and said, in 1992, we weren’t sure that anyone was going to click on the links.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, and it sounds like you’re starting from your hypertext roots and extending it as far as I can go. It sounds very much like where you started in some ways.
Tom Bruce: No, exactly. I mean, there’s still that challenge to meet, and I’m not completely sure what people will actually do with this, I do know that it will help to facilitate search engine discovery if we do because all of those – Google is now taking those kinds of authored connections just as it always has other kinds of links very seriously and how it does search engine presentation.
So the other thing we’d like to be able to do by that means is, to give people a 360 degree view of all of the legal avatars of a particular substance or process. Our poster trial for that is pseudoephedrine. We would like to pop up an info card on which you can find all the ways in which the legal system relates to pseudoephedrine and you think, well, so why is that such a big deal?
Well, it’s a big deal because it’s the basis of any number of over-the-counter medications that are regulated in the way that over-the-counter medications are regulated in terms of manufacture distribution, and the pricing et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, but it is also a precursor for the manufacture of methamphetamine and heavily regulated by the DEA.
So you really like — if you are a pseudoephedrine guy for whatever reason, a manufacturer or a wholesaler or whatever, you would really like to know, okay, in how many places does the legal system hit my product, and that’s the kind of stuff we’re trying to enable.
Bob Ambrogi: It’s really fascinating. Something that I would hope that a lot of listeners to the show are aware of the Legal Information Institute, what they might not be aware of is that you’ve spawned – well, I don’t want to call them “copycats” because that sounds derogatory, but you’ve spawned LII’s all over the world.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, I mean the first to the party were the Canadians, followed by the Australians and those two systems are remarkable in that they have evolved into the de facto national legal information providers for Canada and Australia respectively. Not far behind them though are now probably 20 more that actually use the LII and their name, that are national resources for distribution of legal information, many, many of them in places that really have never had any other means of access, commercial or otherwise.
So for example, much of sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of South Africa was completely outside the scope of the commercial publishers in any meaningful way for a long, long time. There literally was nothing. I remember sitting through a conversation with a high court judge, a Supreme Court judge from Kenya at one point almost 20 years ago, where she said, well, the problem is that nobody has access to precedents and so lawyers pull out their favorite ones
sort of out of their hip pocket and only very rarely do they make them up.
Bob Ambrogi: Good.
Tom Bruce: I mean, that was the level of problem that they were trying to solve. In Kenya, of course they’ve done that very, very successfully as have many, many others.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah. I know that we talked at one point when you were experimenting a little bit with variation on crowdsourcing, I guess, to help kind of populate some of the content on your site in particular with regard to wax the legal encyclopedia; what’s the status of that? What’s going on with that?
It’s creeping along in a sort of desultory way. We have been under-resourced personnel-wise. To be honest with you, one of our problems is that we’re having difficulty at Cornell at this point, the law university is having trouble, it seems hiring sufficient numbers of software engineers. I don’t think that’s an uncommon complaint either here or elsewhere.
And so we’ve been a bit under strengthened and a bit held up on really opening the floodgates on it because we haven’t been able to finish some of the subsystems involved. But I think that within the next six months or so, we’re going to see another surge there. In the meantime, we’ve just been populating it very, very slowly with stuff. We’ve got kind of a new impetus in that direction.
I don’t know if this has come to your attention through any of the stuff we shoot out in to the world but our traffic this year has gone up 25%.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, I did not know that.
Tom Bruce: And all of it is interest in matters that private — really it’s about concerns that private citizens have with the federal government. So ton of looking at immigration statutes, for example, the day that the immigration ban came down the first time actually in January 30th and 31st, we had the highest traffic levels on the site that we had had since the Bush v. Gore opinion came down in 2000 and we were the only ones who had it. So there’s just a huge upsurge of citizen interest in what government is doing and what the statutory basis for it is.
I heard a story on NPR this morning, that was actually a very good story but for the fact that the reporter was trying to skate around the question of, well, how do executive orders impact statutes,
in which they sort of don’t in some ways.
But, there’s an unprecedented level of interest in that kind of stuff, and to circle back to the question you actually asked me, I think we’re going to be devoting a lot of attention just over the next couple of months in burnishing what we have by way of things like backgrounders for journalists or people who are actually curious about these issues.
And that’s one of the advantages of being where we are. We have law students available to us, we have faculty expertise, and so we are able to make that content if we focus on it, and this is certainly a very good reason to focus.
Bob Ambrogi: A piece of news that came along last year was that you’ve become the new home for the OEA archive, SCOTUS recordings and materials.
Tom Bruce: Yeah.
Bob Ambrogi: Can you — I’m not sure everybody knows what that is or what that
means, could you focus a little bit on what that is and what you’re doing about that now?
Tom Bruce: Okay, so what OEA is, I am honestly sitting here blanking on when it was actually started, but it not long after we were. I mean –
Bob Ambrogi: 1996 I think.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, Jerry Goldman who started it up at that time at Northwestern –.
Bob Ambrogi: I am cheating because I have an article in front of me but —
Tom Bruce: It was early to the party anyway and ran it at Northwestern successfully for many years and then it moved to Chicago, kind of few years back and with Jerry’s retirement he was
looking for a safe, secure and stable home for it.
And so it came to us partly through Jerry’s generosity and partly through generosity from our friends at Justia, Tim Stanley and their group. They had actually been providing with technical infrastructure for several years at the time of transfer.
We’re still in the process of figuring out how exactly we want to make use of it in the long term, what it is of course is a complete archive of all the Supreme Court oral arguments, back to I want to say around — I think we just miss Brown v. Board, I think it goes back to like ’55 or ’56. Very, very useful for scholars. Very, very interesting to political scientists and other kinds of people with deep interest in the court; and interestingly enough, apparently very much of interest to theatrical people as well. The last —
Bob Ambrogi: Interesting to you because you have a theatrical background.
Tom Bruce: I do, and I got an email one day from Jerry saying, well, there is this guy out at Portland Rep — they are doing the roleplay, the road-view roleplay and they want permission to use the audio recordings, can you give him a call? And I was quite surprised to find myself talking to a classmate from drama school. We sat and by the way Berkeley Rep and the Arena were doing it as well. So we’re happy to facilitate that kind of thing.
I say that partly because you’re right. It’s very appealing to me given my background, but it’s also just a sort of a nod to how wide the reach of this stuff really is. I mean, the thing that I keep being touched by time and time again is just how much interest there is in legal material of whatever kind from how many places and how deep that interest is. Because I think it goes well, well beyond – it certainly goes well beyond anything that Peter and I imagined in 1992, and I certainly think it goes well beyond anything that most specialists imagine as the audience or the market for this stuff.
Bob Ambrogi: The LII is often associated with like what people would call I guess the free law movement. What do you see is the significance of that movement if it’s a movement at all and where does it stand? What does it mean right now? I mean, there’s so much legal information online right now, what does it mean to talk about access to free law?
Tom Bruce: Well, I will tell you. I am — I sense a certain suspicion of movements in your voice, Bob, and I am as suspicious of them as they are, and in fact, had it really been left up to me. I don’t think I would ever have identified it as a movement.
I am told by a lot of our friends who operate — actually let me go back. 10 years ago, five years ago, even I was told by friends of ours who operate in places like Namibia or Uganda or now in the Middle East or in the stance that there actually is a tremendous validating effect for someone who is approaching a government official saying, hey, can you turn over the data for all of the judicial opinions of the High Court? There’s tremendous value there in being able to say, look
at all these other places that are doing this.
So for many years the existence of a movement that identified itself as a movement was a kind of validating force that really did help people in out-of-the-way places and some not so out-of-the-way ones, get things started. It had a validating effect. These days, honestly, I think I would agree with you.
Bob Ambrogi: I am not sure I said that, but that’s okay.
Tom Bruce: I think the movement per se is really sort of trying to figure out what next in terms of that kind of action. If only because — there’s a — I wish I could think of the case, I never can, but there’s an Oliver Wendell Holmes’ opinion in which he compares the judiciary to a couple of little boys who jump out in front of the parade going down Main Street. He was talking about the relationship between the judiciary and society.
So the little boys jump out in front of the parade and they go along leading the parade until the parade decides to turn right and they don’t. And to some extent that’s the sense in which the free access to law movement has led a wider movement of hope to access the law. They have been like the little boys out in front of the parade.
I think things were headed that way anyhow and I think that now frankly the LIIs and people like us are a little bit of a tail on a much bigger dog that consists largely of government free access distribution to stuff.
A year ago I would have been quite adamant on the point that the day for that had sort of come and gone, more recent events persuade me that there are still very, very ample reasons to want to see sources of government information in general and legal information in particular that exist outside of government.
Bob Ambrogi: You have been running a series of posts on the LII blog and there is a theme of 25 for 25 representing your 25th anniversary and you have one — your co-founder Peter Martin has one, there have been several others.
Peter Martin wraps up with four questions that he says that have been critical in recurring ones for the LII. One of those was the question of whether the LII should work in consort with any of the increasingly numerous commercial and public players in this field, and if so, on what terms What’s your answer to that question?
Tom Bruce: I think there’s a very broad scope of stuff that you talk about under working with. We have all manner of relationships with outside entities, some of which are commercial and some of which are not. I mean, as you well know Justia is the closest thing to an open access provider that you can be a non-profit open access provider, that you can be and still turn a profit, they are kind of in a symmetrical relationship with us not too far over the commercial line just as we are not too far over the non-profit line.
We do all manner of scientific and technical cooperation with commercial operations and with people who are cooperating with government. We have a long series of informal collaborations and consultations over the last couple of years with MITRE Corporation, which is, as you know it’s a non-profit, those consulting largely for government agencies on efficiency stuff. We have done work for Library of Congress. We have a very cordial relationship with Fastcase that has occasionally resulted in some data exchanges. So, there is a wide range of stuff there. We have done technology licensing and so forth and so on. So, there are many, many, many things possible.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, and now to repeat questions is how to continue to innovate while maintaining the information services essential to holding and growing the LII’s audience, is that something you continue to wrestle with?
Tom Bruce: Oh yeah, it’s a never ending struggle. Some of that is just the usual case of a bunch of people with a lot of good ideas whose eyes are a little bit bigger than their stomachs, and in some ways I hope that’s a curse we will always have. There are few more ideas that we can actually do something with. To some extent it’s a product of our institutional position. It’s an odd thing to be doing in a law school, although we are also — we also very much benefit from our relationship with the law school and from our relationship with the computer and information science programs at Cornell.
We make use of probably right around 20 Master’s of Engineering students every year and doing the kind of work we have been doing with machine learning and LP, these are all guys who are — guys I say — it’s mostly women actually who are touching down between careers at Cisco and careers at Amazon to pick up a master’s degree, isn’t that fantastic? So we benefit greatly from that.
It is a challenge for us to maintain the kind of pace that we have been in the past. In 1992 just to put book ends on this thing, Peter Martin could sit down on a snowy afternoon with Two Pesos v. Taco Cabana and markup a Supreme Court opinion and HTML be the first person on earth who have done that, get Internet-wide attention for the next day and go on about is business.
Bob Ambrogi: Internet wide attention wasn’t very wide in those days.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, I know it’s about six guys, but —
Bob Ambrogi: And still good.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, but these days in order to do something that makes a comparable splash. We are talking about investments of 3 years of time from teams of 10 and 12 master’s of engineering students, plus staff software developers and so forth and so on. So it’s got to be — there is more overhead involved and the challenges are greater, but on the other hand we are tackling really big problems that we never would have thought would have been within our grasp a quarter century ago.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, you discussed some of the projects that you are currently working on and with reference to what you just said, what should we expect from the legal information institute in the coming years?
Tom Bruce: Well, I think it’s going to be what I like to think of as our usual mixture of stuff, some of it will be large, bold, attempts like the definition of work, like the work on entity linking that I was talking about, that are just their big projects that we are doing them across large amounts of material and they are to us at least somewhat stunning in their breadth and what they attempt.
Some of them are going to be where I suspect our bread and butter has often been, which is in being just a little bit smarter about the way that people are using this stuff than other people have been. So, for example, one of the things that’s sitting in my ID, right now in my programming environment is a very, very simple feature that will take the federal registered list of sections affected on a daily basis and actually pin down what has been affected to the specific subsection that has been altered. And you think, well, why would anyone care about that, and I will remind you that Section 1 of Title 26 of the CFR runs to 13 printed volumes. And yet if you look at the list of sections affected because you are trying to track a legislative issue or a tax issue or a regulatory issue; that is all the help you would get.
So we look around for little opportunities like that to just make things functional with electronics that were never functional, were never all that functional in print, and if you look at all a lot of the finding aids for federal statutes and federal regulations, there is work there for us to do for as long as we want to do it.
Bob Ambrogi: Tom, I have held you longer than I promised I would, but before we wrap up, is there anything else that you wanted to talk about with respect to the LII that we haven’t had a chance to talk about?
Tom Bruce: Well, no Bob, you have been your usual thorough yourself. I am not sure this is the vehicle to do it, but I would certainly like to say thanks to the 32 million or so people to use those last year and encourage them to continue to do so, and to hope that we can continue to surprise them with a few magic tricks.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, I hope, all 32 million of them will download this episode and listen to it, because that would be very good for our advertising.
Tom Bruce: Yeah, and if they send me a buck, I wouldn’t object either.
Bob Ambrogi: I didn’t even ask you about support, I mean, do you look to users to help support the site?
Tom Bruce: We do, we do, we run large fund-raising appeal in December, we also run one close to the end of the Supreme Court term, but you can go there and donate anytime.
We have been moderately successful with that, I wish I could say, we had been more so. It’s interesting trying to do that, we look very much toward Wikipedia for guidance with what they have done because I think they have been very successful, but they have done it with a much larger user base than we have. So, user support now accounts for, I want to say, just under 20% of our budget.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, I would, for one, thank you for everything you have done. I think the world of legal information today might not be what it is, had you not kind of set things in motion, I think you are being a little bit modest and not acknowledging the extent to which you did set a lot of this in motion, you really were — maybe you don’t like the word “pioneer”, but you guys really were pioneers, really were trailblazers at the time and it’s just been phenomenal of what you have done
over the years, and I applaud you for that, for 25 years of success.
Tom Bruce: Well, that’s very kind of you, Bob, I mean, my feeling has always been, that – it’s steam engines, when it comes to steam engine time, and I think sooner or later somebody else would have done it, but we have always been pleased to be the worst.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, it’s good. So, Tom, thanks a lot and congratulations and best wishes on the next 25 years.
Tom Bruce: Oh thanks, it was a pleasure.
Bob Ambrogi: Good to talk to you.
Tom Bruce: Good talking to you.
Bob Ambrogi: And that wraps up this episode of Law Technology Now. Thanks to everybody for listening. Thanks to everybody at the LegalTalk Network for helping produce the show, see you next time.
Outro: If you would like more information about what you have heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com, subscribe via iTunes and RSS, find us on Twitter and Facebook or download our free Legal Talk Network app in Google Play and iTunes. The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always consult a lawyer.
Christopher Anderson: I bet you didn’t think about running a business when you were in law school, but now that you have your own practice, you are constantly looking for tips on marketing, accounting, practice management, and so much more. I am Christopher Anderson and you can get expert business advice on my podcast, The Un-Billable Hour, found on legaltalknetwork.com, iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.