Why we should give old law books a chance

Katrina Crossley
Head of Editorial Co-ordination, LexisNexis

February 2010 

As a law student in the UK the availability of textbooks was something I took for granted – the enlightening words of eminent professors and practitioners helping me to get to grips with the essentials of the law.  Such was the impact of those weighty tomes that not only did they help me to qualify, but they set me off on a path that was to turn me into a legal publisher. 

It is hard to imagine what it must be like as a student of the law not to have access to the right materials, even harder to imagine practitioners without the tools of the trade.  Such is the case for many universities, law courts and pro bono groups across the globe where there is neither a well-established local publishing industry nor the funds to buy the right books. And yet in the UK, where the law changes rapidly, lawyers need the latest edition of key texts leaving the problem of what to do with the old edition. The common law of the UK is also common to many parts of the world so why send books to be pulped which could benefit others? The problem and the solution came together in 2005 when a group of like minded people from across the legal profession created the International Law Book Facility (ILBF), inspired by the lead of Lord Justice Thomas. For me at LexisNexis it made perfect sense to lend my publishing expertise and be involved from the start.  Together with law firms, barristers, the IBA and the Law Society we run a very tight ship, with volunteer support only, which has in our five years of existence, shipped several hundred  tonnes of key legal texts to 40 different organisations in 20 countries, from Sierra Leone to Ethiopia to Bangladesh. Books are donated from across the UK and they go to good use in law schools, the judiciary, women’s groups, prison libraries and local law societies. 

I particularly value the chance to work with all sides of the legal fraternity. It’s an opportunity for me to demonstrate LexisNexis’s content and technical expertise and our commitment to the profession. I also get valuable insights into needs of lawyers across the world which is essential to our business.  To me providing access to relevant materials in such areas as commercial law, banking, employment and human rights can only stimulate development of the necessary legal infrastructure for growing economies. In the future that will create the conditions which foster local publishing.  The brands of LexisNexis, Butterworths and Tolley will already be familiar in many far flung places.

It’s also been rewarding to see the work of the charity quietly expand over the years. We’ve been able to extend our global reach by working with the Asia Foundation. A collection of valuable but no longer needed books from a library in London is currently on route to several institutions in Pakistan via the Asia Foundation: the books will find a very useful home. It’s not only those countries with a common law system which benefit. With my colleagues at LexisNexis France we’re working to find ways to support codified legal systems in Africa and the Far East in partnership with the ILBF and a magic circle law firm.

This comment from a recipient in Uganda sums up for me the difference the books make: "These new books will open doors of perception which is what a lawyer of quality must be armed with to help promote justice and rule of law."

I am very proud to be working for a business which has successfully supported the profession and business of law for nearly two centuries and has its eye firmly on the  future. 

Katrina Crossley

Katrina Crossley, Head of Editorial Co-ordination, LexisNexis