By Kelly Laycock
As our members will know, the Law Society Library maintains a number of valuable databases, from our library catalogue to provincial bills and regulations. The most popular of these resources is our Saskatchewan Case Digest database, which is searched an average of 3,000 times a month. This is where we post recent judgments from all three levels of Saskatchewan court, complete with summary digests. This database is also where we pull cases from for our semi-monthly newsletter, Case Mail, currently in its 16th volume.
Well, these excellent resources take a lot of time and effort to maintain, and in this post I’d like to send a shout-out to our hardworking, unsung heroes of the digesting world. You know who you are!
Over the years, the Law Society of Saskatchewan has employed a number of qualified contract digesters to review and summarize the often complicated and confusing decisions written in legalese. Now, this is no task for the faint of heart. I mean, it’s true that some of the judgments are only a few pages long. No problem, right? But most number between 20 and 50 pages long – I’ve even seen a few reach more than 100 pages! And we’re talking some of the most heinous criminal cases, ugly family law disputes and bitter estate feuds. Sprinkle in some bankruptcies, a pile of impaired driving charges and complex administrative and corporate law decisions, and you could have a permanent state of depression on your hands! Our digesters have the gruelling task of reading and digesting (in the sense of understanding) the content to produce a concisely worded digest highlighting the most important points so that the rest of us can spend our time watching cute cat videos on the Internet.
For those of you who have ever read any of these judgments, you can appreciate the skill that digesters need in order to decipher these complex topics. The qualifications include a thorough knowledge of the law and the proven ability to communicate that knowledge in a simple but effective manner. We don’t want a flowery novel; we want the facts of that 50-page decision laid out in a couple of paragraphs, nothing more and nothing less. Our digesters must have a law degree, and a very specific set of writing and comprehension skills, not to mention the considerable time to do the work.
Oh, and for the sake of their own sanity, perhaps a sense of humour would come in handy, too!
To all of our past, present and future digesters, we salute you!
Angelina Wall is a Case Digester for the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library. She was called to the Bar in 2000 and practiced in a mid-size private firm in South West Saskatchewan for 11 years. In 2011, Angelina left private practice to assist her husband both on their grain farm and in raising their three active children. She began case digesting in 2013 and thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to maintain contact with the legal profession on a part-time basis.