After realising he was spending quite a bit of time explaining the process of civil litigation to clients and other lawyers alike, Hamilton based lawyer Martin Dillon was inspired to start writing down his insights. Several articles later he was approached to turn them into a book and has just published Civil Litigation for Non-Lawyers. We caught up with Martin to hear more about his journey to authorship.
Tell us about your career Martin
I really fell into law as I wasn’t good enough at maths! My father is a lawyer. I always said I wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps, but in the end law appealed.
I began my legal career in a midsize full-service firm in Auckland doing property and commercial law. But following the Global Financial Crisis much of that work dried up and civil litigation increased. A few years down the track my wife and I wanted to settle down somewhere we could afford and with a reduced commute, so Hamilton beckoned.
I had a friend who worked at the Crown Office in the city and he suggested I apply for a role, which I did, and I ended up as a Crown Prosecutor. I then became a barrister in 2018. I deal with civil and criminal proceedings.
Why did you come to start writing articles about civil litigation?
I started writing articles about law and litigation in 2014. They were based on things I found myself saying frequently to clients and other lawyers who didn’t have much experience in civil litigation, such as the cost, the amount of time it takes etc. It was taking up quite a bit of my time going through the basics of our process and what can be expected with people and it struck me that this information wasn’t reasonably accessible.
I thought it would be good to bring information about civil litigation together into one place that people could refer back to. It was also important to make the content really accessible.
What was it like turning those articles into a book?
I was approached by Barrister and Publisher
Steve Keall who had seen my articles on my website and suggested we recompile them into a curated, stand-alone, e-book.
The biggest challenge for me was developing a writer’s voice that came across as professional, but also accessible and direct. That was the big change I had to make to create the book. I had to write in a much for direct way and constantly remind myself that I was writing for an audience that didn’t know what I was talking about.
It took quite a bit of time and I had to go back and re-do things. I did a lot at weekends, and the odd hour here or there when I had time. I carried my laptop around with me everywhere so any spare moment I had I could work on the draft. Fortunately, I managed to do this before my second child came along so I had more time on my hands!
Who do you hope will use the book?
A really powerful driver for me is supporting people to be able to access justice – to feel confident in what to expect and to understand what’s required of them at every stage. I’ve seen so many people enter civil litigation proceedings completely overwhelmed with the situation they’ve found themselves in, and whilst I can answer their questions each time it’s a very inefficient way of supporting them in their understanding.
The book is designed as a guide they can return to as proceedings advance, particularly as some civil litigation cases can last for years. Better-informed clients make better-informed decisions, and if the cost of accessing knowledge can be minimised then that is all for the good.
It’s also designed for lawyers to use as an aid when they’re explaining the processes to clients, and of course new lawyers starting out in this area.
What’s covered in the book?
It provides information about how to run a civil Court case in New Zealand. It includes guidance on how to commence a claim in the District Court and the High Court, including what information is needed for particular documents. There’s a detailed section on Court costs with tables and examples and chapters on areas lawyers often aren’t involved in such as the Disputes Tribunal and the Tenancy Tribunal. The book also links to Court forms that I’ve prepared which can be downloaded and filled out.
So now the book is done what are you spending your time doing?
I’m really enjoying having more time for my family. I have a nearly five year old and a four month old. I actually quite enjoyed the excuse of lockdowns to spend more time with the kids!