Caselex system set for 2007 launch
A Europe-wide case law database backed by the EU is calling for editors and peer reviewers, reports Rupert White
A European case law database scheduled for commercial release next year is looking for UK legal specialists to be editors and peer reviewers. They would provide summaries in the following areas of law: competition, company, intellectual property and labour cases from the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal and the High Court, as well as high courts across Europe.
Caselex, an EU-seed funded service that is intended to start commercially in 2007, is being designed as a 'European case law backbone, accessing and converting the comprehensive base of case law into easy obtainable and usable knowledge for open distribution through intermediaries and directly to end-users'. In this sense, it will be like a statute law database (see  Gazette, 5 October, 4) but of cases, not statutes, for specific legal areas.
It will also be a paid-for subscription service, though according to Stig Marthinsen, one of the founders of Caselex, 'there is a social dimension to it'. Academic institutions and not-for-profit organisations will have 'a very low subscription rate', said Mr Marthinsen, and courts should get free access. Whether Caselex becomes a non-profit organisation itself remains to be seen, however.
Mr Marthinsen reckons the attraction of Caselex's database will be its body of cases that will be assessed for Europe-wide relevance, briefly summarised and translated into English as well as being presented in their original languages. 'This might be very helpful in [law firms'] work of legal monitoring, legal compliance and litigation support', he said.
Mr Marthinsen refused to say how much lawyers or other legal experts might expect to earn for submissions and work, saying instead that the incentive to assess and summarise would earn them 'some Euros', while helping to peer review the cases would probably get one a 'pat on the back'. It might not be a huge amount of work for those involved in Caselex's areas, though - Mr Marthinsen said the summaries would normally amount to 'about half a page to a page on the key points of the case'.
EU member states were asked to help pay for the service, he said, but they stayed away in their droves. Otherwise, he said, 'we could have offered it as a free service'.
The European Commission spent money on the project, he said, 'to stimulate positive development of the market. It's a high-risk service that no one has wanted to get into. The big thing is also to get access to the cases,' he said. 'In many countries, it's very hard to get access to cases.'
Successful applicants will get contracts that will start from 1 January 2007 and run for two years. But hopefuls need to hurry - the deadline for lawyers looking to get involved is 31 October.
Trial accounts of the Caselex system should be available in December for a limited set of national and European cases, to show off the service.