Monday, January 04, 2016


The Laws of Documents

Stephen Sedley, Ashes and Sparks: Essays on Law and Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 228-230:
It is a tribute to the legal profession that, although they have been widely disseminated, the Laws of Documents have had no effect whatever.

The first law

Documents may be assembled in any order provided it is not chronological, numerical or alphabetical.

The second law

Documents shall in no circumstances be paginated sequentially.

The third law

No two copies of any bundle shall have the same pagination.

The fourth law

Every document shall carry at least three numbers in different places.

The fifth law

Any important documents shall be omitted.

The sixth law

At least 10 per cent of the documents shall appear more than once in the bundle.

The seventh law

As many photocopies as practicable shall be blurred, truncated or cropped.

The eighth law

Significant passages shall be marked with a highlighter which goes black when photocopied.

The ninth law

(a) At least 80 percent of the documents shall be irrelevant.
(b) Counsel shall refer in court to no more than 5 percent of the documents, but these may include as many of the irrelevant ones as counsel or solicitor deems appropriate.

The tenth law

Only one side of any double-sided document shall be reproduced.

The eleventh law

Transcriptions of manuscript documents and translations of foreign documents shall bear as little relation as reasonably practicable to the original.

The twelfth law

Documents shall be held together, in the absolute discretion of the solicitor assembling them, by:

(a) a steel pin sharp enough to cause personal injury;
(b) a staple too short to penetrate the full thickness of the bundle;
(c) tape binding so stitched that the bundle cannot be opened; or,
(d) a ring- or arch-binder so damaged that the two arcs do not meet.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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