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Spigelman bemoans information overload

Spigelman bemoans information overload

NSW Chief Justice, James Spigelman has used the occasion of his first major address since he announced his retirement last week to speak about the distractions of the internet.

NSW Chief Justice, James Spigelman has used the occasion of his first major address since he announced his retirement last week to speak about the distractions of the internet.

Retiring NSW Chief Justice James Spigelman speaking at the LexisNexis Butterworths 100 year celebrations in Sydney on Thursday night.
Spigelman was part of a star-studded speaking line-up that included High Court Justice Dyson Heydon in marking 100 years of legal publications from LexisNexis Butterworths in Sydney last night (24 March).

"The greatest change in legal practice in my time has been the accessibility of online legal information," Spigelman said. "This has transformed all of our practices and ability to access information."

In a humorous address made devoid of notes, Spigelman commented that sometimes too much of a good thing can even distract the most rapacious mind.

"If you type 'information overload' in quotes into Google, as I did this afternoon, you get about six million hits," he said. "It is a sort of self-satire, but we do have a bit more than we need and I do worry about some aspects of the instant accessibility of information.

"More importantly, I worry about the ability to click through into other areas of information. It seems to be an organised mode of distraction and it prevents serious time devoted to thinking."

Spigelman's address was well received by the 200-plus people in attendance at the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Hotel. Guests included some of the most distinguished members of the legal profession, including Robert French, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia; his colleague on the High Court, Justice William Gummow; Patrick Keane, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia; Wayne Martin, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia; the former Federal Court judge Ronald Sackville; and Justice Margaret Beazley of the NSW Court of Appeal.

Spigelman also took the time to gently rib his predecessor to the microphone, Justice Heydon, who used his address to have a dig at the media and also a drop in standards in the use of language and critical thought. "I don't currently believe in the end of civilisation as we know it; unlike Dyson, I am a bit more of an optimist," Spigelman quipped.

Other speakers included the former Federal Court judge Kevin Lindgren QC; Peter Taylor, the former chair of the NSW Bar Association Advocacy Committee and TJ Viljoen, LexisNexis Pacific CEO.

"Looking back over the past 100 years, we have grown from one small legal bookshop in Sydney to become one of the world's leading providers of information and workflow solutions," Viljoen said.

Products such as CaseBase form part of the more than 1,000 international legal products available online through LexisNexis Australia, with its customer base including the top 100 Australian law firms and the top 20 ASX-listed companies.

"I congratulate LexisNexis. A centenary is a wonderful event," Spigelman said. "The contribution that Butterworths and now LexisNexis has made over the course of that century to legal knowledge and legal scholarship and legal decision-making in this country is unsurpassed and I am sure it will continue into the future."

* LexisNexis publishes Lawyers Weekly

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