The Legal and Advice Sectors Metadata Scheme (LAMS) uses three elements from the Dublin Core: title, description, and subject. Websites are required to produce metadata containing at least these three fields to obtain the CLS Quality Mark. The metadata also complies with e-Government Metadata Standard in the UK (see link).
The subject field should be completed using the CCS preferred term which best describes the subject dealt with by that particular webpage. This increases the chance of the information being found on websites.

The search engines on these sites scan the subject field for the search term entered by users. They retrieve all pages catalogued by the relevant CCS term, whether the user chooses the CCS preferred term itself as their search term or any of the synonyms for it contained in the CCS thesaurus.

This consultation paper sets out proposals that are aimed at making it easier for the citizen to gain access to information on the Internet about legal and related issues. It is part of a series of projects to enhance Just Ask!, the website of the Community Legal Service.

This initiative forms part of the Government’s drive to increase confidence in the legal system and the aim of the Community Legal Service to increase access to justice for ordinary people. It forms part of the Government’s agenda to combat social exclusion and will contribute to the aim of making it easier for the public to get legal help and advice.

The proposals link with the work undertaken by the Office of the e-Envoy to increase the use of electronic delivery of Government services and further contribute to the aim of making public services responsive to citizens’ needs through use of technology. These proposals also fit within the framework set by the civil.justice.2000 agenda, which sets out the Lord Chancellor’s Department’s commitment to using the opportunities presented by IT to deliver better and cheaper services which are responsive to customers’ needs.

Lord Chancellor’s Department
November 2000

Executive Summary
The aim of this consultation paper is to promote common standards across Internet sites developed by organisations in the Legal and Advice Sectors. Its contribution to this objective is to propose a means to describe those sites more accurately and make it easier to find them. The proposals are specifically intended for members of the public searching for information via the Just Ask! website but may be applicable to all websites in the Legal and Advice Sectors.

The proposals are for a classification scheme for the contents of Internet sites in the Legal and Advice Sectors. The scheme will contain a structured list of well-defined terms that are useful in searching for relevant information on the Internet. The benefits of this scheme are that it will provide both owners and users of an Internet site with a high level of confidence that the content of the site has been accurately described. This means that users find the Internet sites they want to view and owners get the users they want to visit them. It will remove the ambiguity inherent in a less formal search where a term such as “Drugs” will mean a different thing in the context of different websites.

The scheme that is proposed is based very closely upon de facto Internet standards. These have been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C was created in October 1994 to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential, by developing common standards that promote its evolution. W3C has more than 400 members from around the world and has earned international recognition for its contributions to the growth of the Web.

The owners of the relevant Internet sites will add the descriptions to the pages. They will use a standard language that has also been defined by the W3C. Statements in this language are accessible to the software that is used to search for relevant Internet sites but are not generally visible to the user.

The scheme will include a thesaurus that will help users to search for information even if they do not know the “official” terms that have been used by the owners of the Internet sites. To be effective, the thesaurus must be designed to support the needs of members of the public who will be its users. The development of such a thesaurus is a highly skilled task and it is proposed that an external consultant should be commissioned to do this work drawing upon existing schemes in the Legal and Advice Sectors.

In parallel with the development of the classification scheme, processes will be defined to ensure that the scheme may be implemented successfully.

It is proposed that use of the classification scheme should be a requirement of the Quality Mark proposals, which will be the subject of a separate consultation exercise by the Legal Services Commission.

1 Introduction
1.1 The Consultation Paper
1.1.1 The aim of this consultation paper is to contribute to the development of common standards across websites in the Legal and Advice Sectors. It is specifically concerned with the standardisation of websites holding information on legal matters to the extent that they should classify information according to a common framework.
1.1.2 This consultation paper proposes that the common framework should be a classification scheme (a “Metadata (Endnote 1) Scheme”) that is applicable to all websites in the Legal and Advice Sectors.
1.1.3 The Metadata Scheme will be known as the Legal and Advice Sectors Metadata Scheme (LAMS).
1.1.4 The proposals are intended to deliver benefits to both providers and users of these websites:
Providers’ website will be more visible to and more easily found by users to whom the information is most relevant;

Users will find relevant information, which enables them to resolve or make progress towards the resolution of queries;

Users will have a high level of confidence in the information provided to them because it is always described consistently and accurately.

1.1.5 The proposed standard has been produced following external consultation with a wide range of advice providers and other stakeholders in the field. It has also been developed from research that has been carried out into existing schemes in related sectors (see examples in Appendix C). We now wish to share our thinking in this area with a wider group, so as to ensure that the final version of LAMS commands general support.
1.2 The Community Legal Service
1.2.1 The Community Legal Service (CLS), which was launched in April 2000, is a central plank in the Government’s programme of legal reform, designed to increase access to justice for ordinary people. The CLS is intended to make it easier for the public to get legal help and advice, bringing together current providers of legal and advice services into co-ordinated local networks to achieve better service and better value for money. The aim is to ensure that every area has all the advice services people most need. Coupled with a CLS ‘Quality Mark’, the Government will ensure that quality-assured advice services operate in every community across the country.
1.3 The Just Ask! Website
1.3.1 It is widely accepted that the World Wide Web provides an extremely powerful medium for the delivery of legal information and advice. The number of websites in this field is rising fast, with new sites being launched almost daily. Just Ask! was established both to encourage this development and, vitally, to provide greater coherence and ease of access for members of the general public to such services. Just Ask! has been designed to serve as the point of entry for any member of the public, lawyer or adviser wanting to access the most up to date advice provided by those advice organisations with their own sites.
1.4 The CLS Quality Mark
1.4.1 The CLS Quality Mark (Endnote 2)was developed by the CLS Quality Task Force, involving the Lord Chancellor’s Department, the Legal Services Commission and a range of key interested organisations. The Task Force was established to define the minimum quality standard for all providers of legal services for membership of the Community Legal Service. The Quality Mark is the quality standard for legal information, advice and specialist legal services. It comprises a set of standards designed to ensure that a service is well run and has its own quality control mechanisms that relate to the quality of the information or advice the service provides. The Metadata Scheme that is agreed upon as a result of the proposals in this consultation paper will form part of the set of standards for websites included in the proposals for the CLS Quality Mark. A consultation paper on the proposed new Quality Mark standard for websites will be published soon by the Legal Services Commission.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *