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 (<>). 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 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

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