• Robert Spicer

The Exorbitant Price Of Law Books

Law books are almost always prohibitively expensive. Some titles, costing hundreds of pounds, are marketed as “essential” texts. They have a guaranteed sale of perhaps tens of thousands. Selling books is notoriously difficult. These books sell themselves. They are updated annually and thus the sales and profits are guaranteed every year. Small, independent legal publishers have virtually disappeared in England. The production of law books is increasingly under the control of American multinational companies. These companies are purely profit-driven.

The legal publishing industry is very profitable. A core number of legal textbooks have a guaranteed minimum sale. For example, Stone’s Justices Manual, Archbold on Criminal Procedure and the White Book (the leading Civil Procedure textbook) are as essential to sections of the legal profession as pliers are to an electrician.

These books cost several hundred pounds. They are not generally available to non-lawyers because of their price, which makes guaranteed profits for the American-controlled multinational companies which largely run English legal publishing. The detail of most legal rules is contained in these publications which the vast majority of the population cannot access. The mysteries of the law, once again, are surrounded by a money fence.

The difficulty of access to law publishing by non-professionals further removes knowledge of the law from professional specialists.

The money imperative of the English law business and its attendants is well-illustrated by the price of law books.

Some areas of law are crucially important for non-lawyers in their everyday lives. For example, employment law deserves to be intelligible to the averagely literate person, and employment law rules should be easily available to anyone with problems in the workplace.

The key source for employment law is Harvey on Industrial Relations and Employment Law, a five-volume looseleaf work, priced at £1,179, or almost 200 hours of work at the national minimum wage.

Another key sourcebook is Sweet and Maxwell’s Encyclopedia of Employment Law, price £1,397.

Recently, a book entitled “Employment Court Practice” has been published, price £275. This closely follows the style of the White Book and is a new court reference book for employment practitioners. The strange thing about this book is that there appears to be no employment court in the United Kingdom. This publication marks a further step in the move away from public accessibility to the employment tribunal and its domination by lawyers.

More specifically, in the area of disability discrimination, Doyle’s Disability Discrimination: Law and Practice, costs a mere £49, or nine hours at the national minimum wage.

Books on health and safety law are also out of the range for most workers, for example:

  • Sweet and Maxwell’s Encyclopedia of Environmental Health law and Practice at £1,165.

  • Redgrave’s Health and Safety is cheaper, at £242.

  • Turning to family law, it may be idle to expect that literate people with family problems should have access to the legal rules. If they want to buy books to educate themselves through the family law labyrinth, they should be advised of the following:

  • Rayden and Jackson on Divorce and Family Matters: £935.

  • Duckworth’s Matrimonial Property and Finance: £478.Perhaps the right to a fair trial, guaranteed by the European Convention and the Human Rights, is of such basic importance that all citizens should be able to know its implications. They may be dismayed to know that the leading book on Human Rights Practice costs £540, and a text on Human Rights and Criminal Justice is priced at £153.Tax law is best left to specialists and the rich, given the price of Simon’s Direct Tax Service at £2,900.

  • Civil procedure is also best avoided by the averagely well-off. The White Book Service is advertised as being the biggest source of reference on civil procedure in the country. Its authority is considered to be second to none by judges, barristers and solicitors alike as well as amongst in-house counsel and many other users of civil court texts. The price? A mere £510.

  • Criminal law is also of real interest to those whose liberty or reputation might be at risk from a criminal prosecution. If they want to own a copy of Archbold, Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice, they will need to find £475. Stone’s Justices Manual, the magistrates’ bible, costs £645

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