by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
The country law chambers were echoing today with the cry, “Is nothing easy!”, a philippic uttered more than once. After thirty-seven years of practising law (albeit as a lowly rural conveyancer), I consider it standard fare to have to endure one road block after another in the consummation of even the simplest transaction. Why is this so, you might well ask? Well, it has something to do with choreography, that’s for sure. Marshaling all the elements of a legal transaction is considerably more complicated than one might fully appreciate from the other side of the swinging gate. I suspect the rub is in the detail, those nit-picky little details which (apart from distinguishing the skilled practitioner from the hoards) are the very substance of the matter at hand. Make no mistake – getting the “gist” of the thing is never good enough! One must batten down the hatches, so to speak; hammer in the nails; straighten the crooked way; lay it out one measure after another, one step at a time. As I have so often observed, the law is a jealous audience and cannot be rushed.
In law, to skip over detail is tantamount to running the hurdles while drunk; you’re bound to trip up. Some prefer to excuse their delinquence (because that’s all it is, mere laziness) as inductive leaps, as though such an effort captures some esoteric legal method reserved for the exceptionally intelligent, but the process is but a flawed and poorly reasoned syllogism, plain and simple. There is very little room for guessing in the practice of law. This further necessitates that one must learn to believe what one sees, a seemingly trite admonition, but nonetheless packed with meaning. It is part of the apathetic nature of the less than rigorous mind to accede to the temptation of supposition and guess-work. But hypotheses, except in British spy novels involving the criminal mind, have very little whatever to do with the inglorious and mundane daily activities of the average Solicitor.
If all this sounds like pure punishment (as those who are worn down by the routine are wont to say), you have to ask, “Why bother?”. To begin, I suspect that there is really very little in life that is easy, whatever it is that one does, so the utility of criticizing legal work, as though everything else were by comparison a breeze, is hardly correct or useful. Second, if the truth be known, many of the frustrating events in the practice of law are products of the same annoying features which affect any business – namely, internet crashes, mechanical and computer glitches, failure to manage files properly, unexpected interruptions, that sort of thing. But the effect is the same, it causes one to become discomposed. Notwithstanding this, however, the ability to regroup, to master the issue at hand (for one must always first know the question before one knows the answer), then to gather the appropriate information and critical principles which are required, and to apply the law to the facts, culminating in the production of material which effectively wrestles the beast to the ground is at last the day’s reward.
The lamentable corollary of this elaboration and expatiation is that all else fails. Excellence comes only at a price (which of course is by no small coincidence the bittersweet reward for the Client’s satisfaction). Yet it is to be admitted that many are they who value the work of the trades, and I for one have never considered it beneath my station to fashion myself as a tradesman. Indeed I would be ashamed to say that my professional standards were such as to allow me to dodge the need to be as accomplished as a tradesman in what I do. Skill, integrity, communication and attention to detail are universal standards in any business. But as I say, nothing is easy.