In publishing, the little things do matter.

by Jason Wilson on May 6, 2013

Today, one of my editors was kind enough to send me an email that read simply:

Go to the Texas Supreme Court website.

So I did, and guess what I saw? This 1:

scotx

Now, I happen to know that Justice Hecht told a CLE crowd a few weeks back that Thomson Reuters’ West Texas Rules of Court, Vol. 1 2 was wrong, but I honestly didn’t expect to see this posted on their website. It was a bit of shock because we don’t have an official rules reporter, so it seemed a bit out of character for the Court. Out of curiosity (and to toot my own horn of course), I reached out to the Supreme Court’s rules attorney to ask what was up and was told what I had suspected anyway, that the Court felt it prudent to warn judges and practitioners about the errors. And I applaud them for doing so; I wish more courts and bar associations did care about accuracy in reporting. Here’s an example of just one of the differences, which is subtle, but remarkably important if you’re someone who cares about accuracy, and you know, procedure.

Which brings me to the title of my post. Changes to procedural rules are a pain in the ass, only because no one really has control over the timing. I remember when we were updating the 1993 edition of our Texas Appeals book and decided to wait until the Court released its substantial revision to the rules of appellate procedure. Five years later we released the new edition. From then on, we knew not to wait, but to be cautious on how we reported (and updated commentaries) on rules changes.

The latest batch was merely a continuation of what we’ve learned over 20 years: if you publish before rules or statutes are finalized, only print what’s current, make clear editorial notes, and if you can, publish the Court or Lege’s preliminary order or bill, which is exactly what we did. We had no idea how the public comments (and there were many) would change the rules, but we knew they would given their controversial nature. So it came as no surprise to us that the rules, in fact, differed from the November 2012 order. Once the rules were finalized, we signed off on our pocket part, sent it to the printer, and shipped it to customers.

I cannot emphasize enough how this little blip in Texas civil procedure reflects on the importance of editorial standards and operational workflow. I sympathize with Thomson Reuters because I know they publish A LOT of government information, and to get it all right 100% of the time is probably asking a bit too much. But it’s hard for me to feel sorry for a company that charges $123 retail for public information 3 and still can’t find a way to at least put the correct editorial notes in. These things—these little things—should be unacceptable to you. They are to me because errors in reporting cost busy practitioners and researchers time. Something that we really can’t afford to piss away these days.

Notes:

  1. Depending on when you read this post, the link may not look like the tiny ass image I just posted below. Sorry.
  2. For the record, I think the book is actually maroon, not red, this year. I mean, I’m color blind, but not that color blind.
  3. O’Connor’s is $103 this year because of the Supplement, and at least gives you the courtesy of 700 pages of explanatory commentary.

Previous post:

Next post: