Review of Brooke's Notary (15th edition) (Ready)
Brooke’s Notary

15th edition

Nigel Ready

ISBN: 978-0414089044
PRICE: £295

Brooke’s Notary (15th ed) by NP (Nigel) Ready was published in July 2021. This classic treatise on the office and practice of the profession of notary public in England & Wales is the go-to text for anyone wanting to find out more about how notaries (primarily but not exclusively English ones) undertake their work in the premier common law jurisdiction. In the foreword Morag Ellis QC, the recently appointed Master of the Faculties (the regulator of notaries public in England & Wales) states that this edition is a “timely update of a classic work”.

The book is a well recognised English law classic and speaks to the common legal heritage which crosses jurisdictions and legal families throughout the world. It is a masterpiece of English and comparative law with breadth, depth and substance. Because of these features this book will be of significant interest not only to notaries from jurisdictions which owe much to the law of England but also to those who practise in legal systems such as Scotland. Those fortunate practitioners who dip into Brooke’s Notary can find within its pages much material which is interesting, informative and, crucially, relevant. Many aspects of the book apply not only to notarial practice under the law of England but are also helpful when considering issues which arise under the law of Scotland.

The sheer scope of this work is obvious from the list of contents, which include in chapter 1 the origin and development of the office of notary public covering the Roman, Carolingian and Medieval periods. This reviewer particularly liked that the Scriveners’ Company received its charter from King James I (King James VI of Scotland) in 1617. Like his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots who reformed the profession of notary in Scotland in 1563 (Notaries Act 1563 c 79), King James showed a keen interest in notarial regulation.

Chapters which contain topics which will be of interest to commercial lawyers across the UK include chapter 7 on “Bills of Exchange, Promissory Notes and Cheques”, chapter 9 on “Affidavits, Declarations and Ship Protests”, chapter 10, “Bond and Debenture Stock Operations and Share Issue Ballots”, and chapter 11, “Execution and Proof of Documents for use outside the United Kingdom”. The anti-money laundering section has been updated and expanded in the light of the 2017 Money Laundering Regulations and recent guidance for the legal sector.

Chapters 3 and 4 focus on the regulatory structure for notaries in England (the Court of Faculties) and the classes, appointment and training of notaries in England.

The practical nature of this book is patent when one reads chapter 12, which contains precedents or styles of various documents and notarial acts. The international nature of the work of scrivener notaries and other English notaries comes out clearly in the chapter, part 2 of which deals with foreign language precedents, providing these in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German. These styles cover such documents as public form notarial acts incorporating a power of attorney, notarial certificates verifying a signature to a document as well as a range of attestation clauses and other documents.

The appendices are particularly useful, setting out relevant parts of English primary and secondary legislation relating to notaries in England, various US Uniform Acts and the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 (the Apostille Convention).

As for two of the major legal, social, economic and personal events of our time, the COVID pandemic and the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, Ready acknowledges that these have formed the backdrop to the new edition, concluding that the pandemic “is likely to have the greater impact on notarial practice by accelerating the trend towards remote online notarisation”. He further explains that “Certainly in a number of jurisdictions it appears that notarisation by video link will become an established procedure”, and that this raises a number of issues of identification of parties, the integrity of the notarial act and territorial competence – as he puts it, “in cyber space there are no boundaries”. Of course, notwithstanding these issues the evident utility in a time of pandemic of using video link to supplant personal appearance before a notary means that, in Scotland at least, the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No 2) Act 2020, which provides for this, has been continued at each point at which its renewal has been considered by the Scottish Parliament.

The updating also takes account of changes which have affected the law relating to the cross-border enforcement of authentic instruments since the UK withdrew from the EU. Ready has in fact adapted the text to reflect the “new realities”. This means taking into account a significant amount of EU Exit regulations touching on a wide range of topics such as electronic identification and trust services, the European Enforcement Order, data protection, civil jurisdiction and judgments and the law applicable to contractual and non-contractual obligations. Retained EU law is not an easy topic to master, but Ready has managed to winnow the most important aspects which relate to his book. Furthermore, the difficulty of writing about civil judicial cooperation is clear when one considers the significant doubts which remain about whether the EU will agree to the UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention.

When Brooke was writing in the first half of the 19th century, the UK was the dominant European power with a global empire and his job was relatively easy as change in the law was slow and events more or less predictable. As further editions rolled off the presses in the early 20th century, with the effect of the Great War and the impact of the roaring 20s things moved quickly enough to warrant three new editions in 25 years. It is a testament to changes in the law and practice that since 1988 Nigel Ready has written six new editions. That fact is a testament to his stamina, skill, knowledge and expertise and this 15th edition is the evidence of those abilities put into action.

Michael P Clancy, director of Law Reform, Law Society of Scotland; secretary, UK & Ireland Notarial Forum

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