Is searching the best way to retrieve legal documents?

This paper from Norway suggests that legal information sources ” have a rich and homogeneneous structure which makes it possible to establish chronological, alphabetical and systematic indexes,” something we tell our students over and over and over again.

Is searching the best way to retrieve legal documents?

By Trygve Harvold

Lov&Data nr. 98 – Juni 2009


Legal texts have a rich structure and a large number of links which can be utilized in retrieving documents.  This paper is based on a numerical study of the link structure in approximately 200,000 documents in the Lovdata database.  The hypertext structure is analyzed and it is suggested that it should be possible to navigate the database on the basis of indexes and links.  Analysis of the use of Lovdata also indicated that utilizing chronological and alphabetical indexes and the hyperstructure of links might in many cases be a more efficient and use-friendly way of finding documents than the traditional search.



While searching is a necessary and powerful tool, it may not always be the most user-friendly way of locating documents in a legal information system.  In this paper we have shown how the rich structure and numerous links of legal documents allow for the construction of indexes, buttons and links which makes it possible for users to navigate the system without searching.  User statistics from Lovdata show that users often prefer this alternative way of navigation in situations where it is possible and practical.


The paper is rich with persuasive illustrations.

4 thoughts on “Is searching the best way to retrieve legal documents?

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