I was very interested to read the application review by David Swarbrick in Issue 3 of JILT on the New Law case service, and would like to respond to his comments on Sweet & Maxwell's Cases Direct transcript ordering system.
Mr Swarbrick says that after having found a relevant transcript
'Anyone who has got this far does not, definitely does not, want a fax, they want electronic text, and they want it now.'
We have certainly considered this at Sweet & Maxwell, but at the moment feel that our customers' best interests are served by the supply of printed, rather than electronic, text. The transcripts we supply are the official judgments as sent to us by Smith Bernal. If we were to supply these as electronic text, each printed-out version would look slightly different, and the pagination would inevitably be altered. For a transcript to be accepted in court, it is important that it should be recognised as the authoritative version, and that all copies should be identical so that it is possible to refer to the text on a particular page. This would not be possible if everyone had a different style of printout.
It is also of course very easy to make untraceable alterations to electronic text, whereas this is very much harder on a printed text.
We have also tried to bear in mind the fact that while most major law firms have Internet access, the majority of our customers do not. By providing a service which does not depend on the Internet for delivery we can make this available to as many users as possible. Customers who do not have Internet access can simply phone in and our staff will search the database on their behalf.
These are the considerations which have persuaded Sweet & Maxwell to offer our customers, at what we believe to be a very reasonable price, the best of both worlds : the ease of searching and ordering electronically; and the assurance that the transcripts they receive are the authoritative versions which will be accepted in court.
Sweet and Maxwell
21 October 1996
Date of publication: 21 October 1996
Citation: Freshwater N (1996), 'Response to New Law goes On-line', Comment, 1996 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/elj/jilt/sw/3swarb/discuss/smreply.htm>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1996_3/swarbrick/discussion/freshwater/>