Not-for-profit legal organization brings library online

VANCOUVER — The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia (CLE) will spend the next year completing a project to move more than 40,000 pages of regularly updated legal information online using the XML capabilities of Microsoft

Office 2003.

Based in Vancouver, the CLE provides reference materials and professional development courses for more than 10,000 of the province’s lawyers. Mary Conibear, the CLE’s manager of online production, said it is time for the CLE to embrace the Internet and give its users an alternative to their traditional print publications.

“”Our clients have been asking to have the information available online, and they wanted to take advantage of the benefits of the Web, like full-text searching and underlining text,”” said Conibear. “”We didn’t just want to slap the material on the web but actually add value to it. We wanted to really leverage the strength of the Web.””

As a not-for-profit organization, the CLE relies on subscription fees to support their publications and Conibear said she didn’t have a large budget to support online publishing.

The CLE is working with Vancouver’s Habañero Consulting Group, who came up with a solution using Microsoft Office 2003.

“”We were looking at other vendors and were hours away from purchasing another product when (Habañero) told us that MS was putting XML into the beta version of Office 2003, and we decided to take a look at it,”” said Conibear.

CLE was using Office already to produce its print publications, and by taking advantage of Office 2003’s XML capabilities Habañero was able to customize a solution that allowed the organization to produce one document ready for both print publication and easy posting to the Web.

“”It changes our regular production process a bit, but it doesn’t add work,”” said Conibear.

The CLE updates its manuals annually to keep pace with legal changes, and Conibear said with this system as the print versions are updated it is also updated automatically on the Web. The Web functionality also allows quick-links for cross-references to other manuals, and to Web sites with further information, primary law and statutes.

“”Our clients are chomping at the bit because we haven’t put it all online yet,”” said Conibear. “”They love it so far.””

Habañero president Steven Fitzgerald said as they were working with the CLE to design a publishing solution they looked at a lot of different products but most just weren’t practical, as they would have doubled the production effort for the same publications.

“”With Office 2003 and producing everything in XML, they’re getting two products with virtually the same production effort it takes to produce one,”” said Fitzgerald.

He said Habañero did a fair bit of customization to Office 2003 to make it right for the CLE. When you’re working in a XML publishing environment the key thing you need is a schema — a document that describes the structure of the document you’re building — and Fitzgerald said creating that schema was a big piece of the customization. Habañero also created style sheets to convert CLE’s XML into HTML for the Web.

“”We tried to refine the current Office they’re using now but not drastically change it,”” said Fitzgerald. “”It was a fairly large project for us, all told.””

The CLE will be publishing their manuals online as they are updated with new information, and Conibear said they expect the entire 40,000-page library to be available on the Web within one year.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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