Thursday, 22 February 2007

Transcripts v Law Reports [2007] PB 44

I've spent the last three days photocopying and I am not a happy bunny. I'm preparing the authorities bundle for a Court of Appeal case The Master has coming up in five weeks or so. I'm blending the various previous bundles used in the Administrative Court and adding a few cases to bring it up to date. I've divided it into primary legislation, secondary legislation, policy and guidance and case law. The job has presented some tough challenges:

  • Removing staples
  • Copying from double sided to single sided
  • Arranging the cases into some kind of order (I opted for the classic chronological approach rather than biographical or similar)
  • Avoiding paper cuts

This has taken a lot longer than it ought for two main reasons. One of them is alluded to in the post title. The Court of Appeal only like to accept copies of cases from 'proper' law reports, meaning report series that are affiliated to the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting. Sounds like a very cosy arrangement to me. I wonder if any Court of Appeal judges sit on the Council. While this was fine in the Days of Yore, back when you got proper fog in Chancery Lane, it seems less sensible when there are electronic versions of all these cases that can be printed off at a very low cost in a nice big judge-friendly font if desired. See BAILII, for example. Instead, I've been backwards and forwards to the Inn library several times, spent over £20 on copying there, spent hours trying to find various reports hidden on or under various desks and shelves around the warren that is our chambers (this got a bit Indiana Jones at one point, but that story can wait for another time), spent further hours chasing incorrect case references given by the other parties and have hunched over various photocopiers pressing the spines of various case reports hard into the glass plate to try and avoid a distorted copy. All to create poor quality copies with an enormous black border. Compared to perfectly printed transcripts. Transcripts are fine for the Administrative Court, why not the Court of Appeal?

The other reason is that, unusually, I'm a bit ill and I didn't get to sleep last night until gone 5am. Ironically, this has rendered me fit only to carry out menial tasks like photocopying. And even then I've made several mistakes, such as forgetting to include a case or looking up a case in a report but somehow not seeing it there, when it transpired later it was exactly where it was supposed to be.

At the risk of sounding like Marvin the Paranoid Android, I (normally) have a brain the size of a planet yet here I am doing the photocopying. Well, the size of a small watermelon. Or maybe a large orange, anyway. Definitely a large clementine. But the point here is that I'm not learning anything, I'm just doing odd jobs. I photocopy a lot, I take a bundle from here to there, I fetch sandwiches and coffee (often with the patronising but welcome invitation 'and something for yourself too'), I do loose leaf filing, I carry bags for people, I look up case references, I sit around taking of note of things and I operate complex office machinery like hole punches and staplers. I do from time to time get to look up legal questions, and I've been pleased to see that The Master has used quite a lot of the material I've drafted in several cases, but these highlights are pretty few and far between.

As I said, not a happy bunny.


lo-fi librarian said...

Poor Pupilblogger!
Next time use Justis they have PDF scans of the Law Reports.

Gavin Whenman said...

Or LexisNexis or Westlaw. But don't they cost a bomb?

lo-fi librarian said...

I think they want it to look like the actual print copy, so Justis scans are ok, but Lexis versions might be frowned upon. At least this is what I'm told.

Pupilblogger said...

I was going to use Justis, in fact, but the computers at the library were very slow and our chambers have the WLR, All ER and AC series in hard copy, but not Justis. It's a lot cheaper to copy them the old fashioned way in chambers than pay 10p per printed sheet at the library. The bundle was about four inches thick by the time I'd finished, so it would have been a costly business. The cases I needed from the library were from a fairly obscure series that isn't on Justis.

I think Lo-fi is right, Westlaw and Lexis Nexis do transcripts, not copies of the actual law reports.

Martin said...

I'd be interested to know why you think the Law Reports obtained via Westlaw are less citable than paper copies.

As far as I am aware, Westlaw UK has actual copies of the Law Reports (and the Weeklys), not trancripts.

See the press release on their licence agreement here:

They do also have transcripts of some cases, but those judgments you find with the Law Reports logo and copyright notice attached are not transcripts.

Martin said...

Just as a follow-up, see this recent useful summary of the current position by a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies:

Page 13 et seq discusses the current point, referring to the [2001] Woolf practice direction on citation. Westlaw and Justis are fine - Bailii and LexisNexis are not.

Anonymous said...

I download the cases in the library and email them to my chambers address, and then print them all off in chambers. I have to say I loved photocopying during pupillage...and I think you sound like you're learning a lot.

Pupilblogger said...

Thanks for the tip, Anonymous, I didn't realise that could be done. It will make life considerably easier next time I'm doing something similar.

I am learning, but not a lot about how to run my own cases effectively once on my feet. And with the best will in the world, it may be some time before I'm preparing my own Court of Appeal bundles. I already had quite a lot of legal experience behind me when I started and I suppose I hoped to be able to do a lot more parallel drafting, FRU work and so on. I also realise that I need to do some donkey work, but the balance really doesn't seem terribly good to me. Anyway, a slightly graceless way of saying I think you have a point.

Martin, I must admit I've only ever used Casetrack and BAILII in the past. The article to which you've posted the link is extremely helpful, thanks. I'll pass it on to The Master but I'm afraid I'll need to claim credit in order to avoid a rather convoluted explanation...