Changing Company Law?

AuthorCaroline Bradley,Judith Freedman
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1990.tb01823.x
Publication Date01 May 1990
REVIEW ARTICLE
Changing Company
Law?
Caroline Bradley
*
and
Judith Freedman
**
J.H. Farrar,
N.
Furey,
B.
Hannigan,
Farrar’s
Company
Law,
2nd ed, London:
Butterworths,
1988,
lxiii
+
680
pp, pb
f22.50.
Sealy wrote in
1984
of ‘a widespread concern among law teachers that company law has
become unteachable’.’ If that concern is justified, it may follow that it has become
impossible to write a satisfactory company law textbook, and that it would therefore be
unreasonable to criticise Farrar and his colleagues for not achieving the impossible. They
have produced a book which the majority of students declare to be readable* and which
seems to fill the gap created in the market for degree course level company law text books
by the decision to update Gower’s classic text through supplements rather than a new
editi~n.~ It is not, however, unreasonable to question whether Farrar has made a
contribution beyond filling a gap in the student market on a temporary basis. When the
long awaited new edition of Gower is published, will it resume its pre-eminent position,
or will it have been replaced?
Arguably, the authors of Farrar set themselves the wrong task. The constant developments
in the law which affects companies and the consequent rumblings of change in company
law teaching mean that what was needed was a completely fresh approach to the study
of the law governing business entities rather than another traditional company law text
book. What we have is a traditional textbook with some contextual material, at the expense,
in places, of thorough case analysis.
Farrar’s Company law is not (and does not claim to be) a blueprint for cumculum reform
in the way that Gower’s
Principles
of
Modem Company
Law
was when first published
in
1954.
However, the authors’ stated objectives are not unambitious; the back cover of
the book claims that ‘Its character is unique, combining as it does some elements of a
traditional approach with a clear theoretical structure, contextual treatment and practical
new perspectives.
This
is
a good example of the type of work which legal publishers now appear to be
encouraging, especially in fields where they feel there ‘should’ be a wide (and profitable)
market; a kind of ‘pick and mix’ approach
to
legal writing, offering a wide menu from
which the reader can make a personal selection. Yet ultimately, in its attempt
to
please
all, this book fails to
take
a new direction and present
a
thesis of its own about its subject.
It is essentially derivative and, like all works which aim to please everyone, risks satisfying
no-one.
Like Farrar, Gower purported to write for practitioners and students and
‘to
discuss
most of the important aspects of the subject’. However, the preface to the first edition
*London School
of
Economics and Political Science
1
2
3
**Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Sealy
Company Law and Commercial Realiry
(London: Sweet
&
Maxwell 1984)
p9.
See Kelly ‘Book Review’ (1986) 20
Law Teacher
58.
See the results
of
a
survey undertaken by Ian Snaith, Chairman of the SPTL Company Law Group, in
1989
on
Company Law on Degree courses. Surveys were received and analysed from
24
institutions
(universities and polytechnics) out of the 75 circulated with questionnaires.
A
detailed analysis
of
the
results is to be published in
The Company Lawyer
this year. 27 individual responses were received:
19
of
these (70.3%) named Farrar
as
‘the main textbook recommended’, although some
of
these replies
referred
to
more than one book.
The Modem Law Review
53:3 May 1990 0026-7961
397

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