Book Review: Butterworths New Zealand Law Dictionary, 7th Edition
Butterworths New Zealand Law Dictionary, 7th Edition by Peter Spiller
Reviewed by Mary-Rose Russell*
Within any legal system arguably one of the most important reference works is its own law dictionary. Butterworths New Zealand Law Dictionary is our jurisdiction’s only legal dictionary and now in its seventh edition, it re-affirms its status as an essential legal resource.
The continuous nature of change, especially in statute law, demands that a legal dictionary, to remain current and useful as a reference resource, must be updated regularly. A lengthy six years between the last two editions meant that a significant amount of updating was required for this seventh edition. The Preface to the work states that there are some 200 additional entries and over 5000 new terms and concepts added to the dictionary. Surprisingly, the number of pages has remained constant. This has largely been achieved by removing direct extracts from legislation and instead opting for a more paraphrased style. This unfortunately detracts from the readability of some of the entries and has at times led to a loss of meaning. One such example may be found for the entry “abortion”.
A change of font has provided the Dictionary with a clean, attractive text, although readers with visual impairments might well appreciate a slightly larger point size in the next addition. Entries are alphabetically arranged in bold text, with definitions enhanced by New Zealand legal authority where available.
This new edition incorporates current case law and updates legislative references. Recent significant changes in our law, such as in property law and the law of wills have been covered. Definitions are typically concise. But this is a work largely for legal professionals and English first-language speakers, with many definitions, particularly the numerous Latin words and phrases, expressed in a technical manner. These may pose comprehension difficulties for law students or legal practitioners who do not have English as their first language. Increased use of plain English would greatly enhance the usability of this vital reference work.
The few editorial and stylistic issues aside, this seventh edition of Peter Spiller’s Butterworths New Zealand Law Dictionary is not only very welcome, but a totally indispensible addition to the New Zealand legal bookshelf.
Butterworths New Zealand Legal Dictionary, 7th edition by Peter Spiller, LexisNexis, November 2011, 978-1-927149-80-5, 358 pages, $99.48 (GST incl, p&h excl). Available in paperback and e-book.
*Mary-Rose Russell is Senior Lecturer in Law at AUT University, Auckland.
This review was published in LawTalk 790, 2 March 2012, page 22.
This summary is intended to assist New Zealand lawyers by providing advice on new sources of legal information which may help them in their work. It does not constitute an endorsement by the New Zealand Law Society. For further information relating to content or purchase of the book, contact the publisher (www.lexisnexis.co.nz.)