+ ~ -
 
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
 
Report an Error
Go!
 
Go!
 
TOC
 

A NEEDLE OF SENSE IN A
HAYSTACK OF LAW.

SINCE the completion of my purchase of
the shop next door from Jones* and the settlement
of Mr.Tapes's little account for the same,
it has been my good fortune to meet with a
treatise on Conveyancing, the perusal of which
has tended considerably to allay any residuum
of ill-humour which that transaction may
have left behind. It is entitled "A Complete
Manual of Short Conveyancing," and is the
production of "Herman L. Prior of Lincoln's
Inn, Esquire, Barrister at Law." I gratefully
recognise in it a significant portent of the
downfal of "general words."

* See No. 415, page 284, of the present volume

"The defects of the present system, of
conveyancing," remarks its author (who it
must be ever remembered speaks with all
the authority which a wig can confer),
"obviously consist not so much in any legal
technicalities in which the subject is involved
(which in most transactions are, or need to
be very trifling), as its notorious verbiage,
arising from the want of sound uniform
principles of thought, and language. An existing
evil, this," he proceeds to state, "of the magnitude
of which no one, perhaps, can properly
judge until he has made the bonรข fide attempt of
ascertaining by actual perusal what his lease
or marriage settlement can be all about."
Mr. Herman Prior then specifies two
difficulties which stand in the way of any reform:
one, "the superstition that the old form at
present in use is (as the phrase goes) more
formal,"— the other the not unnatural
apprehension that attorneys might keep aloof from
the chamber of a conveyancer whose conciseness
lopped off the principal part of their
emoluments.

These difficulties I find Mr. Prior disposes of
by the simple application of a little common
sense. "As regards the first," he states, "it
would seem competent to any writer or draftsman,
however humble, to adopt a set of forms
purporting to contain just what is necessary
and no morethe answer to objectors of
course being: If anything else can be proved
to be essential, by all means add it, if not,
where is the authority for its imposition?
For the solution of the difficulty, he refers his
readers to the report of the Registration
Committee, in which it is suggested that the
remuneration of solicitors should be regulated
otherwise than by the length of the instruments
which they are called upon to prepare.

Formerly, general practitioners of medicine
were paid in proportion to the quantity of
physic they administered; and the number
of patients that were dosed to death, can,
only be measured by the number of clients
that are now driven mad by complicated
law-deeds, or driven to ruin by ill-regulated
law charges. Nor is the effect of the
present system encouraging to the honest
lawyer. "If," said Lord Lyndhurst, in the
House of Lords,* "a solicitor drew a deed or
will of a given number of folios, he was
entitled to a certain fee; whereas, if he sat
down, and, by bestowing great pains upon the
document, succeeded in abridging its great
length by one half, he would lose half his
remuneration." A premium is therefore
held out for wordiness, and the solicitor's
interest is made to stand in direct antagonism
to that of his client.

* On March 26, 1855, in the Debate on the Court of
Chancery Bill

Mr. Prior makes mention of two other
points in the present system most requiring
correction, namely: "the employment of
recitals and the almost invariable want of
generalisation." These defects it is his bold
design to remedy: "the first by the entire
omission of recitals. The second by endeavouring
to employ in each instance a general term
wide and safe enough to render unnecessary
either the employment of alternations, or the
tedious specification of particulars." These
are the main facts which I gather from my
perusal of the book.

In order, however, to allay any apprehension
which the promulgation of such a system
might create in the bosom of Mr. Tapes
and his professional brethren, I am glad to
find that the writer "disclaims any intention
of producing a treatise which should aspire
to render every man his own conveyancer."
On the contrary, he states it to be his opinion,
that the employment of short condensed
language in legal documents will demand,
more than ever, the aid of professional skill
and experience.

It is scarcely necessary to say that, having
derived so much satisfaction from the perusal
of the treatise myself, I at once determined