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JILT 1998 (2) - Amanda Cole

New Zealand Law Reports

Amanda Cole
Simpson Grierson
arc@sglaw.co.nz

Contents
1. Introduction
2. Indices
3. Contents
4. Templates
  4.1 Search within cases
  4.2 Search within paragraphs
5. 'Query Case' Option
6. Screen Layout, Colour & Font
7. Printing
8. Conclusion

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This is an IT Review published on 30 June 1998.

Citation: Cole A, 'New Zealand Law Reports', IT Review, 1998 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/sw/98_2nzlr/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1998_2/cole/>.


1. Introduction

The New Zealand Law Reports are the official report series for case law that is reported in New Zealand. This has been available electronically since the end of 1997, published by Butterworths New Zealand Limited. It is currently available on Folio Bound Views 3.1.3. The current coverage in full text is from 1958 to the present.

The opening screen of this database is quite clear. It tells us the coverage, gives access to the table of cases reported, the subject index, New Zealand legal words and phrases, a copyright notice, credits about this service and also notes that it is the official version of the New Zealand Law Reports in electronic form.

2. Indices

The 'Table of Cases Reported' function is useful, although our comment would be that the keyboard setup of jumplinks A to Z is a little small on the screen and as there seems to be room for this to be enlarged, we would hope that it would be enlarged to approximately double the size to make it easier to click on the letter of the case name required.

The same comment about 'keyboard' size applies to the subject index and 'New Zealand legal words and phrases' sections.

The use of colour is good in that blue is used for keys which do have jumplinks and those keys that don't have jumplinks are greyed out. In general, this has been set up very well; we are very glad to see these three options incorporated in the product in such a clear way. Each index also has a jumplink to a small section entitled 'About this index'. This again is a useful feature outlining where the material has been sourced from and what it has covered.

3. Contents

The Contents section of the product is well set up, arranged according to volume so that the year and volume can be selected. A time-saving option as with many other Folio-based products.

4. Templates

The New Zealand Law Reports electronic version has only two search templates in addition to the standard Folio Views general query template, a fact which we feel is an advantage. Too many templates can be confusing for users unfamiliar with the product.

4.1 Template 1: Search within cases

The first template available in the Butterworths Electronic version of the New Zealand Law Reports is for searching within cases. This template has a number of options for searching, all of which function well, including the option to search on the name of counsel or law firm. Our only comment about these would be the use of the term 'catchlines' rather than 'catchwords' - as a non-standard term it is likely to confuse some users. The option to give a full citation is, we feel, an advantage, allowing the user to 'short-cut' directly to a case.

4.2 Template 2: Search within paragraphs

This template allows the user to search within headnotes only, judgement only or headnotes and judgement only. These options are a good way to narrow a search, but we cannot see why the options of searching on statutes or citations have been given here. Both options are available in Template 1; we feel it would have been better to leave them there - even a user very familiar with the product and with Folio Views would be confused by this duplication.

5. 'Query Case' Option

A 'Query case' button under the title of each case allows searching within that case only, which we felt could be very valuable, particularly where very long cases are concerned.

6. General Screen Layout, Colour & Font

The layout of the full text of this product is generally good, and clearly presented, making decisions easy to read on screen. The font size is small but adequate. The jumplinks to cases cited within the text of reports are very useful, although the colour of the links (dark blue amongst black text) means that they do not stand out well against the text. A handy feature among display options is page breaks, which show the page numbering of the print version of the reports.

7. Printing

The usual Folio options of printing full text, tagging or highlighting are possible, giving the user a number of choices for dealing with search results. There is a 'Print case' button below the title of each report which provides a very quick method of printing a full case. One feature which could cause problems for some users: in the 'Page setup' window, the margin sizes default to inches, which is not particularly useful for us as New Zealand uses metric measurements. The default can be changed to centimetres, but it would be more convenient for a New Zealand product to start off with metric defaults set.

8. Conclusion

Overall we feel confident about this product. It is well-structured and the templates thoughtfully designed to maximise the options for searching while maintaining as user-friendly as possible a format. The few reservations mentioned above really come into the area of 'tweaking', and the product will, we are sure, improve with development and user feedback.

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