MANY RECENT CHANGES HAVE OCCURRED TO
NEW ZEALAND COMPANY AND SECURITIES LEGISLATION. AND THERE’S MORE TO COME WITH GOVERNMENT CURRENTLY PLANNING THE BIGGEST SHAKE-UP OF FUNDAMENTAL SECURITIES LAW IN OVER 30 YEARS. I CAUGHT UP WITH BILLIE LITTLE, OUR LEGAL EDITOR FOR THIS PORTFOLIO, TO FIND OUT HOW SHE REMAINS AN EVER PRESENT, ‘CARETAKER OF NEW ZEALAND LEGAL HISTORY AND CURRENT DISCOURSE’, AND A MUM ALL AT ONCE!
1. How long have you been a legal editor and what made you get into this role?
I have been a legal editor with Thomson Reuters for the last five years.
This role allows me to use my law degree and, at the same time, provides a balanced family/work life. Often practitioners must work long hours and while my children are young, I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. As an added bonus, I genuinely enjoy the work. There is great personal satisfaction in knowing that my work helps to keep the legal community informed and current. We are, in a very real sense, caretakers of New Zealand‘s legal history and current discourse, and that is a challenging and very rewarding responsibility.
2. What are you currently working on?
I have just finished working on placing our book Company and Securities Law in New Zealand on our Brookers Online platform, (new online version titled Company and Securities Law in New Zealand, Farrar and Watson (eds)) where customers can read the comprehensive text and, simultaneously, have links to the Company and Securities Law database, which are continually updated. The process of placing new material online is labour intensive: all cross references have to be checked, every title, section number of legislation and every case must be linked up in the file, so when customers see a link they can click on it and it will take them to that case or section of an Act. It’s important to have accurate links so customers can find what they need in an efficient manner.
I also have regular updating responsibilities for Insolvency Law and Practice, Company Law and Securities Law, consisting of up to 17 loose leaf updates and 12 CD updates every year. The online material has to be continually updated as well, especially the What’s New, because that’s where customers can access the most recent developments. I look for information to update the What’s New every day.
3. How do you stay informed and focused on legislation changes that occur in these areas of law?
One of the best ways for editors to stay informed is through the Thomson Reuters Alert24 news service. Every morning I receive the latest news on legislation and cases in each of the subject areas for which I am responsible. I can track the status of Bills through Alert24 and see what stage a Bill is at and try to anticipate when it will be enacted. This is a bit tricky as one never really knows how long the process will take and what the final form of the Act will be. It’s very important for editors to keep track of legislative changes, as significant legislation can bring about a complete product reissue. For example, when the Insolvency Act 2006 was enacted, we had to be ready with an entirely new product and have it in customers’ hands when the Act came into force. I also keep informed by checking the Parliamentary website and other pertinent websites, and I receive the Gazette to keep current on the many notices I must keep track of, like Securities Act and Takeovers Exemption Notices.
4. As changes occur to legislation, or new case law becomes available, how are our products managed to ensure this current information is consistently available to customers?
Along with the Alert24 news service, we have other internal services that provide editors with the most recent case law and legislative information. I scan those services every day for items to add to the What’s New. Once I add an item, it takes about 24 hours for it to show up on line, therefore, the What’s New is one of the fastest ways for a customer to keep up to date. I can also add “New Developments” paragraphs into the commentary, for example if an important Supreme Court or Court of Appeal case comes in, I’ll add a quick paragraph to the text until I replace it with commentary on the case sent in by the author. I routinely send cases to authors, who then write commentary, which I edit and add to the online, CD and loose leaf databases as quickly as possible.
5. Some products in your portfolio include Author commentary. What do you believe the benefits are of having Authors involved in these products?
The authors we employ are highly qualified practitioners and academics who really know their subject areas. They know the law in depth and have a firm grasp on whether a case is simply dealing with well-established law or is a case that adds something new. The authors are often writing for their peers and for the judiciary. In fact, judges often refer to, and quote, our products in decisions and sometimes that includes supporting and/or challenging an authors viewpoint, therefore, authors have a lot of incentive to keep the products current and relevant. I personally have a great deal of respect for their knowledge and enjoy working with them.
6. What are some of the challenges you face being a legal editor? How do you overcome these?
The main challenge is trying to keep things current while working on product updates of commentary at the same time. Believe me, it sounds much easier than it is! Sometimes, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. Another challenge is finding good authors, who are also reliable; there are many talented and knowledgeable people out there, but everyone is so busy, that it’s difficult to find qualified people who have the time to write commentary and get it in on a deadline.
7. What are you reading right now, outside your busy world of legal editing?
There’s quite a lot of good story-telling going on in the Young Adult fiction category. I try to keep up with it because I like to know what my sons are reading. I discuss books and other media with them in an effort to teach them critical thinking and media literacy. Recently, I read The Hunger Games and its sequel Catching Fire, both very well written and entertaining, despite being dark and dystopian. This last year, I’ve been reading classic books that I never got around to reading before; so far, my favourite is Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had me in tears. I enjoy all genres except murder mysteries – not my cup of tea.