What is JURIST?
JURIST (http://jurist.org) is a Web-based legal news and real-time legal research service powered by a mostly-volunteer team of over 30 part-time law student reporters, editors and Web developers led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
JURIST is produced as a public service for the continuing legal education of its readers and law student staffers, and uses the latest Internet technology to track important legal news stories and materials and present them rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.
What makes JURIST unique?
JURIST is the world's only law school-based comprehensive legal news and research service. Its professionally-trained staff of law faculty and law students report and research the latest legal developments in real time for members of the legal community and the public at large. JURIST covers legal news stories based on their substantive importance rather than on their mass-market or commercial appeal. It's entirely non-commercial and ad-free. It's also completely open and accessible, putting no registration or subscription barriers in the way of anyone seeking either the latest legal information or researching its vast legal news archive. Befitting its academic roots, JURIST puts particular emphasis on quickly locating and presenting primary source materials - the judicial decisions, legislation, testimony, reports and releases behind the legal news - so readers can evaluate those directly. Also in the academic analytic tradition, JURIST attempts to assess and present legal news in a factual, objective and neutral manner. Its specialist commentators are law professors expert in their fields or legal policymakers who have been directly involved in the events they discuss.
In practice, all this means that JURIST eschews sensational legal news about crimes, trials and celebrities, and instead concentrates on legal issues with significant jurisprudential, social and political implications. It means that JURIST emphasizes documentation of legal events and prefers facts and true expertise to mere punditry. It also means that JURIST is sensitive to law's global context, and attempts to provide a more even balance of US and international legal news than is common in traditional legal or mass media.
In US media terms, JURIST might be described as an online fusion of PBS and C-SPAN for legal news. In international terms, JURIST's objective news philosophy and its global agenda are modeled on the BBC World Service.
Who writes JURIST?
While JURIST's ongoing legal news coverage is written and edited by its regular law school staff, JURIST also publishes commentaries written especially for it by expert legal scholars, leading policymakers and key legal practitioners from the US and abroad.
In 2005-2006, JURIST's commentators have included:
- law professors from Yale, NYU, Duke, Texas and many other US law schools
- law faculty from the UK, Ireland, and Australia
- former law clerks to late US Chief Justice William Rehnquist and newly-appointed Justice Samuel Alito
- lawyers for Guantanamo detainees
- the former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues
- the former US Department of Justice Regime Crimes Liason in Iraq
- a former US Navy Judge Advocate General
- the former Secretary of the UN Commission on Human Rights
- the former chief prosecutor for the UN-supported Special Court for Sierra Leone
- a member of Saddam Hussein's legal defense team
- defense counsel for Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now imprisoned in Siberia
- the UK Home Secretary
- the Attorney General of Australia
Who reads JURIST?
Lawyers, judges, policymakers, government employees, law professors, law students, librarians, journalists and members of the public from the US and around the world read JURIST on a regular basis. Many subscribe to our e-mail digest service or to our live RSS feeds.
Although not comprehensive, this list of recent reader locations will give you a sense of who's been reading some other pages of JURIST in the last few minutes:
How large is JURIST's audience?
In a sample period between February 19 and March 20, 2006, JURIST registered approximately 919,000 "user sessions" by some 267,000 unique individuals from over 70 countries. Approximately 8000 other websites link to JURIST. Headlines from JURIST's Paper Chase legal news stream are viewed offsite over 40,000 times a week on the websites and intranets of over 90 legal institutions - including federal appeals courts, major law firms (such as Covington & Burling in DC), leading law schools (such as Yale and Berkeley), and legal associations. JURIST headlines and reports are also carried by Google News, and sometimes even turn up as Google's top story.
What do law students get from working on JURIST?
It's not money. The vast majority of JURIST's law student staffers are volunteers who work on the site as an extracurricular activity. In that capacity as reporters, researchers and editors they get a unique opportunity to learn about the latest legal developments, hone their online legal research and computer skills, practice their writing under the supervision of real-time editors and cultivate an impressive ability to do all of this under the pressure of ongoing events, not a small matter in the high-energy 24/7 Internet-based legal culture they will be spending their careers in. In the process, they perform a public service.
In terms of traditional American legal education, the experience of JURIST's law student staffers is conceptually similar to what they might get in a clinic, where law students traditionally learn law by freely helping others who have legal problems and questions. JURIST's students do not provide face-to-face legal advice, but they work online almost around-the-clock, 365 days a year, to advancing legal understanding for thousands of readers around the world.
How did JURIST get started?
Professor Bernard Hibbitts created the website that would become JURIST in 1996 as Law Professors on the Web, with the name JURIST being officially adopted in 1997. Initially designed for law professors as a clearinghouse of online legal materials authored by other law professors, it eventually evolved under the pressure of events beyond its original directory-library-archive model and its internal academic orientation into a live, dynamic and externally-oriented news and research service designed to bridge the gap between the legal academy and the public.
When was JURIST's current website designed?
The baseline of JURIST's current website was launched in 2004 to take advantage of higher resolutions and widescreens. Like all JURIST technical work, it was done completely in-house by JURIST's law school-based staff. Compare previous JURIST site designs from 2002, 1999, 1998, and 1996 [all archived as-is].
How is JURIST supported and funded?
In addition to long hours of labor contributed by Pitt Law students and faculty, JURIST is supported by hardware and special seed funds provided by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Inevitably, however, JURIST has ongoing staffing, hardware and software needs outside of its existing budget. To learn more about how you can support JURIST, its mission and its students, click here.
How can I contact JURIST?
The best way to get in touch with the site is by e-mail: JURIST@jurist.org. Our postal address is:
c/o Professor Bernard Hibbitts
University of Pittsburgh School of Law