Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Digital Ontario Reports (Fail)

I received this morning's email with great anticipation.

The inaugural, digital edition of the Ontario Reports was, after numerous calls by bloggers, parody-video-makers and concerned environmentalists alike, at long last in my inbox.

It went downhill from there.

To my surprise, the email notice itself did not feature an index, with links, of the cases reported in the edition. No headnote summaries. No information at all, in fact. And not a single utilization of the advanced functionality offered by the new, long-awaited digital environment.

The email does, however, feature an advertisement for LexisNexis - along with a link to the online O.R. edition - 98 O.R. (3d) Part 8 Pages 561-640 -itself.

Clicking through, we arrive at a cumbersome, awkward effort to mimic the stodgy look and feel of the old paper version of the O.R.'s.

It is difficult to read. The pages require ongoing zoom adjustments. It was necessary to use a page-format selection to change the default, two-pages-at-once view, which rendered the text virtually unintelligible.

The case text cannot be selected, copied and pasted. It is difficult to view an entire page on one screen in a font size large enough to read.

An attempt to use the Reports' social media sharing function to post the O.R. cover to Facebook resulted in an error message.

And then there were those pages and pages of ads.

Easy to flip through en-masse in paper-form, but a labourious succession of repeated clicks was required to proceed through the advertisement section, until I simply had enough, and used the contents index to skip the ads altogether (as I suspect most readers will).

Ultimately, it is a case of a good idea gone bad. Poorly conceived, poorly implemented.

Which is a shame - what we need is not that complicated.

Lawyers would benefit from a weekly Ontario Reports email containing:
  1. An index of the cases reported, with subject area, concise summary of the ruling, and links to the complete text of each ruling, whether on CanLii or elsewhere;
  2. A listing of the other key O.R. sections - Law Society news, careers, practise resources, tribunal decisions, etc., including highlights of key items.
  3. An O.R. that is current, and does not simply regurgitate cases that have been reported by blogs and the major press months prior. As an example, the Tauber decision, found in this week's O.R.'s, has been available online at CanLii since it was decided on December 23, 2009, and was covered in the National Post on January 11, 2010 - nearly three months ago.
Beyond that, the O.R.'s ads section just won't work in the digital format and needs a complete rethink.

As does the entire format of the, new digital O.R. era.

The Canadian Legal Newswire (subscribe here) provides an excellent model of a legal update newsletter that works. By comparison, the digital O.R.'s take a disappointing step backward in time.

While we applaud the intentions behind the effort, we frankly give this digital incarnation of the Ontario Reports a major thumbs down.

Bottom line is that hard to read, outdated materials will not cut it in 2010.

Even if there are lots of Lexis-Nexis ads.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto


Also see comments today from Slaw, David Canton and Michael Carabash on the digital O.R's.


Visit our Toronto Law Firm website:




Anonymous said...

My OR was generally skimmed and thrown straight into the recycling bin, so as hard as the digital edition is to navigate, I am happy for the switch to the digital format.

But this begs a further question: print publishing comes at a huge cost, and it's reasonable to believe that this move to an electronic format will translate into a huge savings to the LSUC over time - so will this translate into a reduction of our annual fees?


Greg said...

Great post, Garry. I agree with you about the shortfalls of the ORs’ digi editions. However, I think this is a step in the right direction. I hope that the LSUC will be listening to their membership on how to improve these. On another note, I’m impressed with how well the digi ORs display on the iPhone’s web browser. It almost looks like they had the iPhone in mind when they were developing the digital editions. Here are my tweets (and screen caps) about it:

Hopefully an inevitability of this will be the development of mobile apps for the ORs. Imagine all the downtime in court or travelling that could be spent reading about all the licence suspensions.. er, I mean, practice tips on your iPhone or BBerry! ;-)

@ Steph - I wouldn't hold my breath on the LSUC lowering our fees because of this.. not a chance. just sayin'..

- Greg (@cyclaw)

Anonymous said...

If it turns out that our fees (which are pretty hefty - why am I paying close to $900 when I'm not even practising???) are going towards the OR expenses, then the LSUC should at least give us an explanation of why the savings aren't being passed on. I thought transparency and accountability were the buzzwords of the 21st century?

Anonymous said...

I highly doubt our annual fees assist in alleviating the production costs of the OR's.

It's more than likely that the revenue from the advertisers goes towards production expenses.

Because many of us will just skip by the ads, and if advertisers are swift enough to figure that out and drop off...who knows? This digital venture of the LSUC's may end up increasing our membership fees! :(

Pei Wang said...

Clearly the technology for a more user-friendly interface exists; the commercial version of the database works just fine. Unfortunately, it’s apparently unavailable for most lawyers, whose membership dues include subscription to the Ontario Report ($355 per volume plus GST), but not the commercial database of archived case.

I suppose the layout may have been designed to remain exactly the same in order not to frighten those lawyers who still dictate or write out their emails for the secretaries to type out. However, the lack of improvement is a huge disappointment for the Google generation, who want something more than the plate set being scanned and put online.

Read the full review at

Anonymous said...

I definitely think that the digitization of the ORs should result in a reduction of our fees. Mind you, I'm one of the non-practising fools who pays almost $900 for...not sure really. I am NOT holding my breath.