Commercial Law: Text, Cases, and Materials Paperback – 11 Sep 2008
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Review from previous edition "The excellent structure and sheer variety of [Sealy and Hooley's] book must make its use an exceptional and pleasurable learning experience for students and mature lawyers at all levels... ...One can only conclude that this stimulating and scholarly book must become a sine qua non for students of commercial law, integrating so well the fundamental sources and materials with the authors' substantial explanatory text and commentary." (Journal of Business Law)
About the Author
Len S. Sealy is Emeritus S J Berwin Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Cambridge. Richard J. A. Hooley is a Professor of Law at King's College London, and a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.
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I am studying commercial law at undergraduate level and find the book compliments my studies very well, however I can imagine it would also be very useful for postgraduate students and practitioners alike. For me, this textbook has been the most useful and easiest to understand (whilst not skimping on the detail) during my three years of studying law. I highly recommend it!
I am a year 5 law student and I have read many textbooks (not the nutshells, but 'real' textbooks and handbooks). "Commercial Law" by Sealy and Hooley sets a spectacular new low for law textbooks. The back cover speaks of 'This book follows a very clear structure...Praised for the clarity of writing...', I wonder if there is an actionable misrepresentation by the publisher.
The main problem with this book is the authors' lack of restraint in discussing a specific topic. Take Chapter 16 "Bills of Exchange" as an example, p.536 speaks of a holder in due course may enforce the bill against anyone who became a party to the bill prior to its completion if the bill was not completed in accordance with s20 of BEA. Holder in due course was discussed on p.552 and liabilities in general are discussed on p.562. There are many instances where the authors saw fit to sprinkle bits and pieces of later sections between the lines of early sections. Good writers insert markers to remind readers to jump to later pages, but Sealy and Hooley thought it better to give readers some bits here and there with no hint of a later, unifying section.
The second problem with this book is their lack of focus. It is definitely NOT a practitioners' handbook as it is flooded by comments by academics. This is true even for cases that have been overruled: Case X was decided, then Y criticised it, and a later case Z adopted Y and overruled X. A competent author would simply give the practitioners Z and ignore X and Y altogether (this is the norm in Archbold and the Common Law Library). Sealy and Hooley would reproduce part of X and Y, and insert their comments about X and Y, and then give you Z. This is a big WASTE of time!
It is definitely NOT a student's textbook either. The book is full of comments by various commentators that are difficult to grasp. Prof X may disagree with the outcome of case Y, thank you for telling me that, but why? Often the authors struggle to summarise the views by fellow academics, with the result that readers have to consult the original journal. It would be better if the authors simply give up the summaries altogether and give us the citation (as most 'genuinely clean' textbooks do). The writing style also sets a bad precedent for students.
The third problem is the writing style. The book is characterised by long paragraphs with no footnotes. Once in a while the authors were able to identify genuinely important criticisms by commentators, but they drowned it with long lists of citation, which are best relegated to footnotes. The book also follows a half-textbook/half-casebook style. Those rules that are taken from the statue are usually compressed into long paragraphs with the appropriate sections in brackets. Those rules that are taken from cases are handled worse, for example:
page 538 and 539 contain an excerpt from the case Bank of England v Vagliano Bros. Judgment by Lords Herschell and Macnaghten were quoted. The principle conveyed by these TWO pages is simply 'fictitious person' in s7(3) includes a payee who is an existing person and one who has no existence. Note 1 explained how Lord Halsbury LC overcame a certain difficulty in this case by the doctrine of estoppel. Note 3 is more important, as it emphasised, for the first time, that it was the drawer's intention that is important to the application of s7(3).
One wonders why page 539 and 539 could not be summarised into a 4-line paragraph. There are other cases which the authors reproduced in some length that can be equally summarised efficiently. It appears to me strongly that the authors did not give much thought in selecting which part of which cases to quote. Often the long quoted texts are about something straightforward (best for summary) while the Notes are tasked with explaining complicated principles with many qualifications (best for case-reading exercise).
Commercial Law contains all the essential material for the usual commercial law course. However, the organisation is pitiful and the text is generally inaccessible. It is a locked vault (in its most negative sense) of commercial law information. IF you enjoy the challenge of deciphering legal textbooks, this is a good puzzle for you. Otherwise, students and practitioners, stay away from this book.
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