Book review of Dicey Morris and Collins ‘The Conflict of Law’

 In Book Reviews for Private Client practitioners, Probate, Trusts

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Dicey, Morris & Collins the Conflict of LawsThis is a book review by Gill Steel of Dicey Morris and Collins ‘The Conflict of Law’, 16th Edition by Lord Collins, Professor Harris and specialist editors, Sweet & Maxwell

Purpose

The purpose of this edition of the ‘prince of legal textbooks’ was to take into account the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and all the attendant changes to English law arising from the removal of much of the body of EU law from it.

Added to which, it is 10 years since the 15th edition was published in 2012, a longer period having passed than usual before bringing out a new edition, because of Brexit. It therefore has a number of decided cases to consider too.

Content

This edition is spread across two volumes of almost 1,000 pages each and a separate 1st supplement in which you will find the law on the revoked European Regulations and Lugano Convention. The purpose of this supplement is therefore to address the issues that may arise in the future as a result of the transitional arrangements. There will be cases commenced prior to the end of the transition period so that these provisions are likely to remain important for a number of years. The editorial thinking in keeping these provisions in the supplement is that as the transitional provisions decline in importance the main text will be unaffected.
The two main volumes contain 37 chapters divided into seven parts as follows:

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  1. Preliminary matters such as the nature, scope and development of the conflict of laws
  2. Foreign affairs and the conflict of laws which looks at how statutes implement international treaties and identifies the rules of customary international law and jurisdictional immunities
  3. International litigation – including protective measures and international judicial co-operation, and the jurisdiction relating to a number of areas from personal to admiralty. There are also chapters on foreign judgements and their enforcement
  4. Family law – to include chapters on marriage and civil partnerships and their effect on property; the various jurisdictions in relation to matrimonial causes, children and mental incapacity
  5. Law of Property – with chapters on the nature and situs of property, immovables, particular transfers of movables, intellectual property, administration of estates, succession and trusts
  6. Corporations and insolvency
  7. Law of Obligations which looks at contract, non-contractual obligations, tort, unjust enrichment, equitable claims and foreign currency obligations

Structure & Layout

At the start of each part of the text there is a brief summary of the chapters included in that part. Each chapter then commences with an indication of the breakdown of the contents of that chapter. Each paragraph throughout the whole text is separately numbered with headings and extensive footnotes.

There are various Rules set out in the text. For example, Rule 1 says:

“In the Rules and Exceptions in this book the law of a country (e.g. the law of the country where a person is domiciled)

  1. Means, when applied to England, the domestic law of England;
  2. Means, when applied to any foreign country, usually the domestic law of that country, sometimes any domestic law which the courts of that country would apply to the decision of the case to which the Rule refers.”

Tools

This is a classic text which does not contain tools as such. Suffice it to say that since the last edition, it has been cited in about 1,300 judgments of the English courts and is regarded as the pre-eminent book relied on by practitioners and the courts alike.

Clarity & readability

The use of the Rule format does make for clarity. For example, Rule 158 says “The administration of a deceased person’s assets is governed wholly by the law of the country from which the personal representative derives his or her authority to collect them.” The rule is then explained in detail by the following commentary and an illustrative example.

Relevance to practitioners

Such an important and valuable text is of course very relevant to practitioners in all kinds of disciplines. Given its breadth, it is the sort of text that a practitioner will only read in part when researching a particular problem and will be of interest across different departments of a multiple-service firm or in public practice or commerce. For those who practice in only part of the areas covered, access to it via a library service will probably be sufficient.

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