A Legal Editor
by Vladimir Rom Matias, LLB
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It is more than hundred days since I walked the office floor as a newly-hired legal editor, still hitherto wondering what really makes a legal editor or simply, what defines a legal editor. Back in June, a European lady working Down Under laid out a blueprint of expectations to us, novice editor. She emphasized that varying and pressing needs of the growing number of the company’s customers lead the management to venture into a new strategy of selling separated pieces of legal materials – she calls them chunks – to end-users who are mostly legal practitioners such as lawyers, judges or barristers. Part of our job is to break and divide legal treatises authored by leading luminaries into an easily saleable piece of legal treasure. The scenario is that if you can’t sell a big diamond because of its high price, why not strategize in retail enterprise by breaking the diamond down into smaller pieces at lower cost.
Interestingly, the big diamond is something strange and new to me and my colleagues; my previous understanding of the workings of a legal system has been mainly confined to the corps of Philippine laws patterned after the American system. So, familiarizing with the legal trappings of another sovereign nation based on the common law jurisdiction can be an added jewel in a resume. In an increasing globalization of job opportunities marked with the proliferation of outsourcing of services and resources, knowledge of just one legal system may be a disadvantage.
If in my previous job, I have had to observe strictly the shifting American time with its controversial daylight savings time (dst), one of the major workstyle-changing twists in this legal editorial job is to shift from the use of the familiar American English to its unfamiliar mother, British English. The Philippines surreptitiously lists English as one of its official medium of instruction in schools and universities but pupils and students are not previously warned that what they are going to use is American, not British English. Eventually, we are advised verbs ought to end in “-ise”, not “-ize”, in”colour”, not “color”.
Initially, an editor jokingly remarked he, in essence, is a farmer in the city because he creates MS Excel rows and columns, fills them up with Rosetta entries and colors entries accordingly in the very same way a rural farm worker aligns the paddies, waters the fields, and plants rice, the country’s highly sought-after grass. As soon as the headings or subchapters are properly planted, the next steps proved even more difficult to accomplish. Writing transactional overviews (TOs), another editor opined, is actually the editors’ Waterloo in this job since TOs are akin to flowery statements in advertisements designed to grab passers-by’s immediate attention and entice them to buy the product right-away. Soon afterwards, the editors are now busy looking for bibliographic entries the customers may end up checking, cross-referencing, and ultimately buying to satisfy their respective needs. These references, however, do not follow the usual MLA or APA style learned in research writing in universities. Ms M and her company say references are to follow rules HOUSESTYLE.
So these are the things defining a legal editor? The Holy Bible provides in Romans 15:4, “For all things that were written aforetime were written through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” We write then not only to teach but more importantly to give hope to our clients: that with every document we chunk and later sell, our clients will become more OPTIMISTIC and even more ENLIGHTENED.
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