Interview with John Carroll LLM – Senior Legal Editor, FirstPoint
The Thomson Reuters Cases team is responsible for the content management of a wide portfolio of print and online products, including FirstPoint, which is our online case law research tool.
The Cases team is one of the largest groups in the Research and Primary Law department. There are 19 legal editors in the team who work tirelessly to produce the content for FirstPoint, updating it each working day.
We recently took the opportunity to speak to John Carroll, a Senior Editor in the team, to learn a little about the editorial process that occurs behind the scenes.
1. How long have you worked as a Legal Editor in FirstPoint?
Five years this month.
2. How many cases does the FirstPoint team receive each week?
We receive over 14,000 cases a year. That amounts to an average of nearly 300 cases a week, all of which need initial treatment ideally within 24 hours. On a good week, we provide digest notes for over 100 cases.
Individually, each full time legal editor averages about 10 to 15 digest notes and about 30 to 40 cases classified per week. This can vary depending on the length of the cases, the level of treatment required and the degree of difficulty.
3. What do you do with the cases that you receive?
All of the cases received are classified according to the Australian Digest taxonomy; decisions of superior courts will also be treated for cases, legislation and words and phrases considered and reportable or other significant decisions are given a digest note.
But what I think makes FirstPoint particularly useful is that we only note a case or legislation as “considered” if the court has actually given it some consideration and fashioned it into the ratio of the judgment. We don’t include every case cited in a string of authorities or buried in every footnote, because practically speaking they don’t add real value to the research. Tracking an authority with FirstPoint yields fewer hits, but they’re more useful.
4. You say FirstPoint includes digest notes of significant Australian cases. What is a digest note?
It’s basically a snapshot of the relevant points of law covered by a decision. Unless crucial to the understanding of the judgment, facts are generally omitted, so for instance it differs in that regard from a headnote. The idea is to zero in on the most important points as concisely as possible so that the research process becomes quicker and more efficient in terms of identifying useful information.
5. FirstPoint utilises the classification scheme used by the Australian Digest. How do you ensure the classification evolves with new cases that come through?
The Australian Digest scheme is driven by reported cases and is constantly evolving. Each title is reviewed annually and supplements are issued during the course of the year. Additional classifications are added to the system as areas of law develop. This happens from time to time at the supplement stage and a complete overhaul always takes place when titles are reissued.
6. With the proliferation of cases in Australia, your team must be busy keeping up with demand. What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with highly intelligent, quick-witted and un-stressed colleagues.