John, are you able to give readers an insight into the origins of the ICLRQ Model Law Library? What gave you the idea for compiling such a list?
ICLRQ Model Law Library
Late last year, the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting Queensland (ICLRQ) launched the ICLRQ Model Law Library, which can be accessed online on ICLRQ’s Queensland Judgments website. The aim of this project was to compile a list of legal texts, across all practice areas, which are regarded as standard works in their field. In effect, the list seeks to produce a model law library for the assistance of legal practitioners. The list of texts comprising ICLRQ Model Law Library was assembled by John McKenna QC (Level 16 Quay Central), Sarah Holland (Higgins Chambers) and Sarah Spottiswood (Level 27 Chambers), with the assistance of members of the judiciary and members of the profession. Samuel Walpole (Level 16 Quay Central) spoke with John, Sarah and Sarah about the project.
In almost all matters, the most reliable and efficient starting point for legal research is with a leading textbook. Leading textbooks are usually the product of years of work, by a respected and careful scholar, who has read all the key authorities in the field and then organised their content in a clear and accessible way. If it is a leading text, then it will also be a key input into almost all new authorities in the area – as it is likely to have been consulted by those who are litigating new cases and by the Judges who are deciding them. For these reasons, previous generations of barristers considered that a strong textbook library was a key asset of their chambers – a practice which made these texts readily accessible. However, this practice seems to be in decline. In part, this is because textbooks have become prohibitively expensive. Leading English texts, which were once a cornerstone of many chambers’ libraries, can now cost over AUD$1,000. It is also because our profession has become accustomed to the convenience of relying upon online materials alone. Whilst some texts are available online, as part of bundled packages, many of the key reference works are not – and the materials available online are not of a similar quality. So, the purpose of developing the ICLRQ Model Law Library was to help the Queensland profession reconnect with these essential legal resources – and so improve the quality and efficiency of our work. We are hoping to pool our experiences, in identifying the most useful and reliable texts in every area of practice, and then encourage practitioners to consult these works – either in their own collection or in the Supreme Court Library – as the ordinary starting point for most research.
Speaking for myself, I can certainly see the real advantages of having such a list – particularly when one encounters a new topic or practice area, or is returning to a particular topic after some time. What does the ICLRQ Model Law Library comprise, and how is it organised?
The Library currently comprises 278 titles organised into 42 categories. These categories are intended to reflect practice areas such as Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Equity and Trusts, Insurance, Torts and Workers Compensation. We have also included a category for encyclopaedic and historical works which continue to be of practical importance in their field.
How were texts selected for inclusion in the ICLRQ Model Law Library?
We started the list by identifying a selection of well-known texts under key areas of law. To augment that list and to ensure that the ICLRQ Model Law Library contained the most useful resources for each area of law, we asked members of the judiciary and the profession to assist us. We sought nominations from judges, barristers, solicitors and academics of texts in areas that they knew well or that they personally found to be useful in their work. We were very pleased to have received so many nominations from across the profession of quality works and in a wide range of areas.
The ICLRQ Model Law Library can be found on ICLRQ’s Queensland Judgments website. Can you tell us a little about how the Model Law Library section of the website works?
The Model Law Library is easily found by clicking on the Model Law Library link in the top right-hand corner of the Queensland Judgments homepage. Once you have the Model Law Library page open there is a search function which allows you to narrow the list by typing an area of law, book name, publisher, year or nominator. Or you can simply select a category from the drop-down menu and then browse the titles of the texts. All of the texts on the list are available from the Supreme Court Library. As Sarah S mentioned, in selecting the texts we consulted with practitioners and members of the judiciary and that consultation process is now reflected in the fact that some of the texts also include the words “nominated by” which adds a personal dimension to the list and contributes to the shared library experience we are trying to create.
Are there plans to expand the ICLRQ Model Law Library, and to update it regularly?
Yes. We are asking the profession, when undertaking research in unfamiliar areas, to let us know the texts which they found most useful so we can add them to the collection. We are also looking out for new works which are destined to become leading texts so that they can also be added.
If readers wish to nominate a further text for inclusion in the ICLRQ Model Law Library, who should they contact?
We welcome further nominations of texts for the ICLRQ Model Law Library. The easiest way to nominate a text is to click on the “Make a submission” link on the ICLRQ Model Law Library website, which is located at the top right corner of the webpage. We will review those suggestions and update the list regularly.