The New Juris Classeur Quebec

The Great Encyclopedias of Legal Research

This is the fourth of a series of posts on the major encyclopedias of legal research in Canada that were prepared following a presentation to a seminar on legal information at the University of Montreal.


Joining the list of Great Encyclopedias of Legal Research in Canada is the new Juris Classeur Quebec, a series of encyclopedias modelled on those in France and Monaco. By way of an explanation to the uninitiated, it can be said that a Juris Classeur encyclopedia serves much the same purpose for a legal practitioner in a civil law jurisdiction as does the Halsburys Model in common law jurisdictions. Needless to say, it does so in a “distinct”, or “similar but different” fashion.

Possibly, the most significant difference between the two encyclopedias is found in the civil law approach to secondary writings, referred to in the literature as doctrine. Whereas a Halsburys purports to be an authoritative black letter statement of the law, usually written by a singe person, a Juris Classeur encyclopedia aspires to have greater weight in the course of legal argument in the courts. It is more like a legal treatise in the common law world, but with each chapter or major legal issue treated by a different author.


Collections – Another more obvious difference from Halsburys is the publication of the content in a number of collections, or major subject areas, that follow a conceptual rather than the alphabetical order. When completed, the Juris Classeur Quebec will consist of five collections: 1) Collection Droit civil, 2) Collection Droit du travail, 3) Collection Droit des affaires, 4) Collection droit public, and 5) Collection Droit penal. Each Collection is overseen by a distinguished academic who in the role of Directeur de collection selects authors, reviews articles and generally ensures the overall excellence of the final publication.

Format – Like its French equivalent, the Juris Classeur Quebec is published in a looseleaf format. Each collection consists of a number of fascicules, each dealing with a single aspect of a legal subject. When gathered together in a binder, the fascicules provide for the complete treatment of the legal subject.

The fascicule is a unique feature of the Juris Classeur Model. The word fascicule itself is fascinating and originates in the printing trade, in English as well as in French. The Webster Dictionary offers alternative spellings – fascicule and fascicle – and defines the term as “a small bundle”.

In English, the term was used to describe the first issue of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary that contained 8,365 words between A and Ant that was published in January 1884. In The Meaning of Everything – The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester, the author describes the “fascicle” as a “a kind of publishing gimmick” whereby sheaves of pages that were collected together to form distinct parts, but which could themselves be bound together later between hard covers and thus made into whole volumes. In the case of the OED, the fascicules were transitional and replaced with bound volumes, while in the Juris Classeur, the sheaves of paper became the final product gathered together in a binder.

The original binder used to store the fascicule is an engineering marvel that holds firmly the fascicules and the supplements without using holes or rings. Special training is required to master the technique for opening, closing and filing replacement fascicules in the elegant classic black binders, with coloured endpapers and spartan labelling. Fortunately, the Juris Classeur Quebec opted for the standard three ring binder. Needless to say, the Juris Classeur is available in a digital format. I continue to believe that it is necessary to see the print version in order to fully understand its digital equivalent.

Access – For something this large in scale, carefully constructed access points are essential. The most useful features for the busy practitioner are the summary of key legal points that introduce each fascicule, which enable the reader to grasp the key legal principles, and the table of contents and key word index that immediately follow. Without even reading the text, the user has a coherent legal framework to consider the subject under consideration.

Throughout the text itself, headings and sub-headings are frequent. Paragraphs are numbered. Paragraph notes rather than footnotes are employed and placed throughout the text immediately following the paragraph setting out a point of law. Selected bibliographies accompany every fascicule.

Currency – Clarity and certainty regarding the currency of a statement of the law is essential. The user must have a clear understanding of the point of departure for every statement contained in a legal publication in order to determine what updating is required before use. In the case of the Juris Classeur Quebec, each fascicule is dated, as is every page of every fascicule.

Branding – Juris Classeur encyclopedias have the same status and recognition factor as does Halsburys in commonwealth countries. Quebec and Canadian equivalents to these works seemed a natural fit for the Canadian market. As publisher of both Juris Classeur and Halsburys, it seemed inevitable that Lexis Nexis would publish a series of Juris Classeur encyclopedias for Quebec after launching Halsburys Laws of Canada. Not to have done so would have been to waste an asset and eliminate any prospect of Lexis Nexis becoming a serious player in the Quebec market for legal information.


Throughout my publishing career, I was frequently asked what publication should a library acquire that provides access to Canadian and Quebec law in French, if the library could purchase only one publication. Before the Juris Classeur Quebec, I had no answer to that question. I have one now.

N.B. Gary P. Rodrigues was Vice President Publishing at Lexis Nexis Butterworths during the period that the Juris Classeur Quebec encyclopedias were developed.

Appendix 1
The genesis of Juris Classeur Quebec

The genesis of the Juris Classeur Quebec encyclopedia began where on would expect – in a law library with a reference librarian. On a visit to Montreal, I was given a tour of the CAIJ library by reference librarian Marc Leger who showed me the major legal reference works that had been published in Quebec, most notably the “Droit civil canadien” (1885–1916), a nine volume work on Québec’s civil law, and its relation to the French tradition, by Pierre-Basile Mignault.

I was looking for ideas and opportunities for Lexis Nexis to become a significant player in the Quebec market, one that would utilize the significant talents of the Quicklaw editorial team in Montreal. As it happened, the library technicians strike was in its second year and boxes of updates to looseleaf publications were piled high everywhere. Marc explained that most of them were updates to the Juris Classeur encyclopedias from France for which there was no Quebec equivalent. Recognizing that Juris Classeur was a sister company, I took it as a sign that I should pursue a Juris Classeur for Quebec.

The first step to obtain approval to use the name and the concept. I approached Alexandre Geguan, the publishing head of Lexis Nexis France, first at a company meeting in Morocco. That conversation led to a meeting in Paris with the editorial team for the Juris Classeur encyclopedias, who briefed me on the concept and the manner of execution, before giving their full support to the idea of developing such a series in Quebec.

People, not companies, make great things happen, but companies do provide the environment where great things can happen.

The key to success was the people. The project needed a Quebec legal publisher and I pursued the best – Mathieu Boutin. In Mathieu’s own words:

In August or September 2005, you invited me to visit LexisNexis’ Montreal office. I spent a few minutes checking Lexis’s website before the meeting so I’l look somewhat knowledgeable. That’s when I realised that Juris Classeur France was part of LexisNexis. I had always liked the idea of an encyclopedia because I’m fundamentally lazy. As an editor and content developer, I had always thought that it would be a lot easier to get a bunch of authors writing a chunk of the same larger project that trying to have each of them writing their own treatise. That is why I created the collection Aide-Mémoire at Wilson and LaFleur, then Points de droit, at Editions Yvon Blais, and why when I met with you that afternoon I asked if you had ever thought of that yourself, which you obviously did, as you already were working on the english language encyclopedia with David Keeshan. I started on January 2, 2006.

The legal publisher needs an executive editor to make it all happen. Mathieu knew the best and possibly the only person capable of carrying out such an undertaking – Lise Viau. Lise’s experience and expertise both as a jurist and an editor gave a lot of substance to the project which absolutely needed to be credible from the start. Lise and Mathieu went to France together to meet their colleagues at Juris Classuer. Mathieu continues:

They were very enthusiastic about our project and shared a lot of information and documentation with us. Lise used this documentation to create what was to become the JCQ’s bible, the Guide de rédaction, that defined everything from the kind of numerotation to the level of analysis desired, etc. It was a crucial document that really gave a back bone to the project.

After a final reality check with Denis LeMay, the guru of legal information in Quebec, the project was approved and launched. Mathieu and Lise engaged heads of the various collections, pursued authors, and assembled a superlative editorial team to process the manuscripts. The end result is a testament to their collective ability and their commitment to the work at hand.

Appendix II
Juris Classeur Quebec

L’encyclopédie JurisClasseur Québec est composée de cinq collections phares : Droit civil, Droit du travail, Droit des affaires, Droit public et Droit pénal. Les ouvrages de ces collections sont publiés sur feuilles mobiles et actualisés deux fois par année pour tenir compte des modifications législatives, de la jurisprudence et de la doctrine récentes.

Collection Droit civil – 11 volumes
Directeur de collection : Professeur Pierre-Claude Lafond

Maintenant disponibles :
Biens et publicité des droits
Contrats nommés I
Contrats nommés II
Obligations et responsabilité civile
Personnes et famille
Preuve et prescription
Procédure civile I
Procédure civile II
Successions et libéralités
À paraître :
Droit international privé (novembre 2012)

Collection Droit du travail – 2 volumes
Directrices de collection : Professeures Katherine Lippel et Guylaine Vallée

Maintenant disponibles :
Rapports individuels et collectifs du travail
Santé et sécurité du travail

Collection Droit des affaires – 6 volumes
Directeur de collection : Professeur Stéphane Rousseau

Maintenant disponibles :
Droit des sociétés
Faillite, insolvabilité et restructuration
Valeurs mobilières
À paraître :
Concurrence, consommation et distribution
Droit bancaire et financement de l’entreprise
Propriété intellectuelle (décembre 2012)

Collection Droit public – 4 volumes
Directeurs de collection : Professeurs Stéphane Beaulac et Jean-François Gaudreault-Desbiens

Maintenant disponible :
Droit constitutionnel
À paraître :
Droit administratif
Droit de l’environnement (décembre 2012)
Droit municipal

Collection Droit pénal – 2 volumes

À paraître :
Droit pénal général
Preuve et procédure pénales

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