Skip to main content

Scots law jurisdiction – it is actually a real thing, you know

Admittedly, various legal database suppliers seem to think that English/Welsh law and Scots law are interchangeable.

For example: Westlaw. It’s developed a sort of “know how” product called Insight, which should allow more in depth analysis and updates on certain points of law. This is handy, and the sort of things our users like – no wading through articles or textbooks and checking if they’re up to date or take into account recent judgments – just nice primers on specific legal points.

Which would be lovely, if Westlaw could remember that not all jurisdictions are the same.

When I go into the Scots Law tab on Westlaw (which should restrict my searches to only Scottish material, hence avoiding a lot of time wasting and confusion when I’m looking for something with a specific Scottish meaning), it gives me the new option of Insight within that tab. “Oh good,” I thought, “they’re actually paying some attention to their Scottish users, and putting Scottish content on!”.

So I went into the Contract section…and immediately was irritated. As you can see from the photo, despite Insight being within the Scots law tab, the information on contract is for English law, as “The Law of Contract in Scotland” by William McBryde is the core text for Scots law.

Wrong. Oh so VERY wrong. Even more glaringly wrong when you consider that McBryde is available as an electronic book on Westlaw, just as they inform us that Chitty is.

If a resource is inaccurate and/or misleading, it teaches the service users to mistrust it: how much time will I be wasting telling my users that Westlaw’s accurate…but only up to a point…usually…and really, it’s best to double check everything they do on it?

How about we just agree Insight’s inaccurate for any Scots law, and have it removed from access via that tab until it’s useful?

And Westlaw’s not the only legal database provider being stupidly unhelpful and forgetting that English law and Scots law are not one and the same thing.

I used LexisLibrary to access Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia of the Laws of Scotland. Even ignoring the fact that their new style search results don’t work (a whole other issue we will need to go in to with them later), they’re working on being confusing too, although not to quite the extent as Westlaw.

If I’m using Stair, I am looking specifically for Scottish legal information. I will not be helped by being given information from other jurisdictions. So helpfully inserting a suggestion at the top of my search about what a term means in an entirely different context is of absolutely no relevance to my search. It may be a “key narrative definition”, but it’s for an entirely different country, and for an entirely different topic!

We, as the intermediaries for users of these resources, need to be able to confidently tell them: "Yes, that information's accurate - experts in legal issues have checked the contributions and I can confirm they're as good and reliable as you can get." Right now, I just can't do this, and it means our users trust in these (very expensive) resources is being eroded more each time they come up against a glaring inaccuracy.

So, legal database publishers, lets try going over this again, shall we?

Scotland is a separate jurisdiction from England and Wales
Scotland has different laws from England and Wales
Scotland has different legal terms than England and Wales
Scotland has different legal resources from England and Wales

Can you all repeat that until you know what it means, and stop trying to give us English/Welsh law instead of our own? Oh, by the way, you might want to remember that Welsh law is likely to start differing significantly from English law soon too, as their Assembly starts to exercise their powers. Try and take that into consideration for the future?


Alex G Smith said…
Hi, I work for LexisNexis in the Product Development team and agree with you about the Recommendations at the top of the new style results pages. We’re working on some Scottish terms in our LexisNavigator set of definitions that when released will start to appear amongst the recommended suggestions. I’m interested if you would want the option in your personal preferences in LexisLibrary to only show Scottish terms/suggestions
Michael said…
Oh my!! That's a cardinal sin... how very dare they mix the two jurisdictions up!! :-0

I smell a potential boycott...

... oh wait... :-\

Popular posts from this blog

Relaunching a library service

What do you do when you decide to do what is verging on library-based insanity, and basically scrap your current library service, and relaunch everything - physical layout, LMS, and classification system? In my case, spend a year, planning, developing, preparing….and then a frantic few weeks hauling stock!
The background to this apparent madness is this: when I took on this role I inherited a library using a layout that didn’t seem to make sense, a classification system I wasn’t familiar with, and an LMS that had been in place for 20 years but didn’t seem suited to our needs. As I was new to the library, a major part of the time I had available while settling in during my initial few months was dedicated to exploring how well these things were working, both for users, and library staff. I had the benefit of my colleague also being new to the library, only a few months after me, so together we looked at these issues with fresh eyes.We came to the following conclusions: The physical layou…

Learning from the experts

One regular occurrence, no matter what the age of your collection, is finding a book in need of some sort of repair. Whether it's become overheated and dried out, with random pages falling out, or if it's "shelled itself", with the whole cover block detaching from the pages, there's always a book that needs some attention. My problem is that I'm not skilled enough in this area to know what sort of repairs are possible, and where the line is between me being able to do some basic repairs, and when a book needs to be sent off to the book binders for some expert attention. 
Luckily, the binders we usually use, Downie Allison Downie, run a variety of classes on all elements of book making and repair. My colleague and I were able to go along to one of these classes recently, carrying a few sad examples each of books in need of repair. The way we spilt the carrying weight, I had the hardbacks with me, and my colleague had paperbacks in various states of dirtiness …

Impressive shelving technique

I have a new role model: the shelving technique demonstrated between 12 and 18 seconds by the librarian in this Lucozade video is something to aspire to! :D