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Preface to the Third Edition

It is with both pleasure and sadness that I write the preface to the new edition of the New Zealand Law Style Guide. Chris, Jono, and I are delighted to see the continued success of the guide we worked on with Justice Chambers. The guide continues to be commonly used across the judiciary, the universities and the profession as the standard way to cite New Zealand law. We are also delighted to be joined in this edition by Alice Coppard, the Student Editor in Chief of the Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, who has done almost all of the hard work leading to this edition, and without whose keen intelligence and dedication it simply would not have been completed to the standard that it has. The sadness comes, of course, from Justice Chambers’ untimely death in 2013. Much of the success of the original two editions came from his enthusiasm for the project, his keen chairing of our discussions and his tireless evangelism for its use. We have missed Rob, and can only hope that he would have been as thrilled as we are that there is now a third edition, albeit six months later than the deadline of 2017 that he promised in the last preface.

In preparing this edition of the guide we took the early view that we would build on the success of the previous work by clarifying and refreshing rather than reforming. A similar view was expressed by the librarians, academics, journal editors, judges’ clerks and students who we asked for suggestions. While we have therefore updated many of the examples and sometimes clarified rules, those who learnt from previous editions should be confident that there is little that will need to be relearnt. We have included a list of major changes, although the reality is that almost all of them are matters of detail.

We have been helped in preparing this edition by a number of people. Special mention should be made of Tracey Thomas and her colleagues at the Davis Law Library at the University of Auckland who collated a large number of suggestions from their community of law librarians, and who helped proofread the final version. Similarly, Scott Fletcher coordinated feedback from the judges’ clerks. We received suggestions from a number of people but were particularly helped by comments from Jonathon Yeldon of the Otago Law Review and my colleague Dr Bevan Marten. We were also grateful for further guidance from the Māori Land Court as to how to cite their work. Mitchell East and Christina Laing, both judges’ clerks, and Alec Duncan, Student Editor of the New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law, greatly helped by volunteering to proofread the final product. Associate Professor Joanna Mossop at the School of Law, Victoria University of Wellington helped us by looking over the international materials section. Victoria University of Wellington provided both through its Performance-Based Research Fund and the Law Faculty research fund the wherewithal to pay Alice for at least some of her work. We are very grateful for all of this help.

We have retained the prefaces to the first two editions to acknowledge the work of the people that helped us with those, and the assistance provided by the New Zealand Law Foundation. We are also pleased that Thomson Reuters will continue to publish the guide and to provide a web version, which has been key to the guide’s success, and we acknowledge the encouragement of Renay Taylor. The web version will continue to be hosted on the New Zealand Law Foundation’s website <www.lawfoundation.org.nz>.

Any exercise to revise a guide like this inevitably means leaving some things out. We have not acted on some of the suggestions that we have received for more particular guidance in certain areas, not because we did not think this was important, but rather we hope that over time that guidance can be supplied through the guide’s webpage.

We hope that a fourth edition will not be needed until 2025.

Geoff McLay

Old Government Buildings

Easter 2018

Preface to the second edition

The first edition of the New Zealand Law Style Guide was published in late 2009. It would be going too far to say it was a runaway best seller, but the take-up has been nothing short of amazing. All the New Zealand law schools adopted it. So did all the New Zealand publishers of law reports and journals. Most courts (including the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal) and many tribunals follow it. Other entities, such as the Law Commission, have used it in their publications. Many barristers now follow it in their court submissions.

We always anticipated that a second edition would be required within a couple of years. Inevitably, with a project this size, a first edition would suffer from errors and inconsistencies. As well, users took the opportunity of contacting us with suggestions for guidance on matters not covered in the first edition. For instance, how does one cite transcripts? How does one cite letters patent? What about podcasts and eBooks? In particular, international lawyers sought more in guidance on the citation of international materials. We are grateful to those who made suggestions.

Earlier this year the core group responsible for the first edition (this time augmented by Sophie Klinger, a legal and policy adviser with the Law Commission) met to organise a process for completion of a second edition. We went through all the comments that had been received since publication of the first edition. Many of the suggestions were obviously correct and were immediately adopted. With respect to other matters, we decided to consult those who had made submissions first time round. We also invited from them further ideas for improvement. Obviously, we wanted the actual changes (as opposed to additions or clarifications) to be kept to a minimum. We were not prepared, for instance, to reopen debates on matters which had been heavily litigated first time round: for example, whether to pinpoint a paragraph number in a judgment using “at” or a comma! All citation decisions are ultimately arbitrary. A principal aim of a national guide is that one has to learn it only once. Most submitters recognised that principle and refrained from pursuing hobby-horses on which they had proved to be in a minority last time.

The core group was able to make firm decisions on many of the matters submitted. Others we decided to throw over to the same wider working group that saw the first edition to fruition. We sent a marked up draft to the wider group. We then had a meeting with those who could attend in Wellington in October. Final decisions were then made.

The major changes, nearly all of which are additions, are set out on page xix. A significant feature of the new edition is the inclusion of more than 200 new examples.

The writing of the first edition was very much a joint effort by Geoff McLay, Jonathan Orpin, and Christopher Murray. The lion’s share of the updating has been undertaken by Jonathan. Christopher was an able collaborator in the task. Geoff and Christopher both have new jobs since the first edition was published and this prevented them from having such an active role this time round. Sophie Klinger proved most adept at organisational matters. In particular, she collated submissions and prepared summaries of them, which greatly assisted efficient decision-making. I am most grateful to all four of them for their continuing interest in the guide; it is their excellent work which has made the guide the success it is.

All of us would like to thank those who made submissions and the wider consultation group for their input. I also thank the Court of Appeal clerks who, at the end of the process, thoroughly proof-checked the entire publication.

Three others deserve special mention for their assistance. First, Malcolm Birdling, Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, who provided invaluable assistance again this time with regard to the citation of European Union materials. Secondly, David Noble and his colleagues at the Parliamentary Counsel Office for their assistance with the citation of statutory materials. And thirdly, Kathy Scott Dowell, the current editor of the Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, for her assistance with the citation of international materials.

We have decided to retain the preface to the first edition so that those interested can read the account of how the guide first came into existence. We also think it important to keep on record those who assisted so mightily with the first edition.

It is the current view of the core group that a third edition ought not to be necessary before 2017.

Robert Chambers

Judge’s Chambers

Court of Appeal

12 November 2011

Preface to the first edition

Up to the publication of this guide, New Zealand has never had a national legal style and citation guide. Each of the law schools has had its own guide. Each of the three main legal publishers in the country has had its own in-house guide. Most judges have been permitted to use their own idiosyncratic methods of legal style and citation. The Court of Appeal and Supreme Court did eventually, in 2004, adopt style guides, but unfortunately they differed!

This unsatisfactory state of affairs has led to much unnecessary duplication of effort. Law students would learn their university’s legal citation methodology, but would then have to learn a new methodology when they became judges’ clerks or went into practice. (In the absence of a national guide, each of the big law firms has developed its own style guide.) Legal academics writing books have had to learn their publishers’ style guide, which might differ significantly from their university’s style guide. And what style was appropriate for an article would depend on which New Zealand journal was going to publish the article. Appellate judges were frustrated by the fact that their judgments, when reported, were never in the same form as the original. If a judgment was reported in more than one series, the chances were it would appear in a different format depending on the series. The further irony was that, if the appellate court later decided to quote from one of its earlier decisions which had been reported, the cited passage would be in a format consistent with the reported series’ style guide, not the appellate court’s own style guide! Converting a lengthy Court of Appeal judgment to a report series’ style guide might involve the law reporter having to make literally hundreds of minor, completely unnecessary, changes.

Last year, the Court of Appeal judges resolved to see whether this unsatisfactory state of affairs might be remedied. We made contact with Geoff McLay, a reader at Victoria University of Wellington Law School. Geoff had some years ago been instrumental in developing the Victoria University of Wellington Law Review style guide. Geoff was keen on the concept and contacted the other law schools to gauge their support in principle for a national style guide. The response was positive.

An inaugural meeting of law school representatives was held. At that meeting, a very rough first draft of a possible guide was discussed. That draft had been primarily prepared by Jonathan Orpin, at the time a Court of Appeal judge’s clerk, but soon to become a Wellington barrister. Jonathan cobbled together a draft from a number of sources, but in particular relying on the Court of Appeal style guide and the VUWLR guide. From that inaugural meeting an ad hoc working group emerged. It contained representatives from each of the six law schools: Mary-Rose Russell and Chris Hare from Auckland; Noel Cox from AUT; Juliet Chevalier-Watts from Waikato; Tony Angelo and Geoff McLay from Victoria; Elizabeth Toomey from Canterbury; and Margaret Briggs from Otago. The working group also comprised representatives of the three main legal publishers: Paul Ruffell and Matthew Heaphy from Thomson Reuters; David Ellis from LexisNexis; and later Andrew Campbell from CCH. Bernard Robertson, in his dual capacity as editor of the New Zealand Law Reports and editor of the New Zealand Law Journal, was also a member. In time, there also developed a “core working group”, as we called ourselves, comprising Geoff McLay, Jonathan Orpin, Christopher Murray, the Student Editor in Chief of VUWLR, and me. The essential function of the core working group was to keep the project moving and to develop drafts of the guide for consideration by the larger working group. The writing of the guide was primarily under the control of Geoff, but most of the hard work – and there was lots of it – was undertaken by Jonathan and Christopher.

The working group undertook its task admirably. Of course, everyone nominated by his or her university was, in the nature of things, a “style guide nut”, a feature which potentially had both advantages and disadvantages. But what so impressed me as chair was the wonderful spirit of cooperation that all members of the working group brought to the common task. Each contributed hugely with comments and suggestions for improvement as various drafts emerged from the core working group. While it may be invidious to pick out any particular member, I would have to mention the superlative effort and assistance from Mary-Rose Russell. We had vigorous debates over what many would regard as trifling points of style or citation! But, in the end, everyone – and I mean, everyone – gave way on some pet topic or other in order that a consensus could be reached. Everyone agreed that a national guide, even with imperfections, was a huge step forward on the present situation.

By late July, we had a guide which we considered sufficiently acceptable to go out for consultation. The consultation exercise proved remarkably successful. First, errors were identified. Many suggestions for improvements were received. In particular, we received many valuable suggestions from the Auckland and Wellington law librarian groups. Judge Craig Coxhead of the Māori Land Court put us right on the correct citation of his court’s decisions and on other Māori material. Mark Prentice and his colleagues at the Parliamentary Counsel Office provided an invaluable submission on the citation of parliamentary material. Malcolm Birdling, Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, provided valuable insights into the citation of European materials. And Judge Kenneth Keith, of the International Court of Justice, provided valuable input, particularly on the citation of international law materials. Angela Blake, the Court of Appeal librarian, was a fount of information on numerous topics, and VUW’s Bill Atkin and Dean Knight made submissions which deserve special mention for their thoroughness.

The other point of the consultation phase was to obtain formal buy-in from relevant institutions. Largely thanks to the excellence of the consultation draft and the advocacy of the law school representatives on the working group, all six law schools advised that this guide would become their guide from the start of the 2010 academic year. The three publishers signed on. And a number of courts indicated they would adopt the guide, including the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Interestingly enough, many courts and tribunals also decided to adopt, as from the guide’s start date of 1 January 2010, the neutral citation system for their decisions, bringing them into line with the Supreme Court’s and the Court of Appeal’s practice.

Following consultation, the working group met for the last time. The core group had itself determined appropriate responses to many of the submissions received. More difficult issues were thrashed out by the working group as a whole. Once again, a spirit of cooperation prevailed and the final version was approved.

As with any work prepared by a committee over time, there was a risk that there might be internal inconsistencies within the work. To try to eliminate such inconsistencies as far as possible, the guide was finally proof-checked by three people, Cathy Nijman, Peter Marshall and James Little. We are very grateful to them for the errors they picked up.

One important player not so far mentioned in this brief history of the guide’s creation is the New Zealand Law Foundation. Geoff had the brainwave early on to apply on our behalf to the Foundation for a grant. The Foundation allocated us $15,000. That funding proved invaluable. It meant we could pay Jonathan and Christopher, albeit at a miserly hourly rate, for their work in drafting version after version of the guide. It also enabled funding for members of the working group to fly to Wellington for meetings. These meetings were essential, as often compromises are reached only after face-to-face debate. Emails get one only so far. In recognition of the support given by the New Zealand Law Foundation, the working group has vested copyright in the guide in the Foundation. The guide will be available free on the Foundation’s website (<www.lawfoundation.org.nz>). We are very grateful to the Foundation for its support.

We should also mention the huge assistance we have received from Paul Ruffell and Matthew Heaphy at Thomson Reuters. That company offered to print and distribute the guide on effectively a cost-recovery basis. This has enabled the guide to be available in hard copy at a comparatively modest price, well within the range of every law student.

The guide, being a guide, not legislation, does not have an official start date. But we know it is the intention of the law schools to utilise the guide from the start of the 2010 academic year. Those courts subscribing to the guide will be following it in all judgments released from 1 January 2010. And law reports and journals will be following the guide from their first numbers in 2010.

We welcome comments and suggestions for improvements to the guide. If you want to make a comment or suggestion, send it to lawstyle@lawcom.govt.nz. Both the core group and the working group will remain in existence and, after the guide has bedded down, will meet to consider what improvements can be made to it.

I conclude by particularly thanking Geoff, Jonathan and Christopher for their mammoth effort in undertaking the bulk of the writing and to agreeing so willingly to the tight timetable I imposed on the project. I insisted they be named as the authors of the work, although I know they would want me to say how much they were assisted by others’ contributions.

I hope all who use the guide will find it helpful. I hope in particular that needless translation of New Zealand legal material from one style guide format to another will quickly become a thing of the past.

Robert Chambers

Judge’s Chambers

Court of Appeal


9 October 2009

Major changes in the third Edition

The major changes in the third edition are of three types.

First, the third edition provides clarification of the existing rules where there may previously have been uncertainty:

Second, the third edition includes new, updated or expanded rules for the following:

Third, this edition includes a number of substantive changes to the previously existing rules:

The aim of a style guide is to ensure maximum consistency among authors, clarity of writing and the ability to locate information easily. The guide includes rules for the citation of a large range of material commonly used in New Zealand, but inevitably there will be occasions where it is necessary to cite materials for which there are no specific rules. Any citation for which there is no relevant rule should be made as consistently as possible with this guide.

In relation to overseas materials not covered in this guide, it is necessary to make the relevant changes to ensure those citations are consistent with the format employed in this guide. We would urge users to consult the following comprehensive guides:

We have made use of those guides in preparing this guide, and would like to acknowledge our debt to them. Where, however, a rule in this guide conflicts with a rule in one of them, follow the rule in this guide. We also, when preparing the first edition of this guide, made use of the then existing style guides from the various New Zealand law schools. We acknowledge those who worked on them.

Further guidance is available on the New Zealand Law Style Guide website at

Errors and Omissions

Inevitably this edition will contain errors and omissions. Everyone involved in the production of this guide would appreciate users who discover errors and omissions contacting us at <nzlawstyleguide@gmail.com>.

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