Although well-versed in the field of lawyers' liabilities, Hugh Evans has perhaps wisely not attempted to produce a new textbook on the subject.
Instead, the book's 10 chapters each discuss a more or less discrete problem area. Some sections were originally published as separate articles. Perhaps as a result, the style and format of the chapters are not completely uniform. Each is nevertheless clearly written and helpfully, but not excessively, footnoted. The main index usefully includes the major cases examined.
The opening chapter discusses the standard of care imposed on lawyers, particularly in conveyancing matters, and draws on an article by Lord Hoffman which will be of renewed interest in the light of his judgment in the South Australia Asset Management Corporation case.
There is a comprehensive discussion of duties to beneficiaries in the light of White v Jones (including a list of hypothetical examples to test its limits). There is a chapter on the tricky area of duties to opposing parties, although the suggestion that solicitors should be liable for wrong legal answers to other parties' enquiries will raise some eyebrows. There are four useful chapters on the measure of damages in particular types of case.
The opportunity has not been taken to cover other current problem areas. Omissions are inevitable in a selective and short – 191 pages – work. However, there is only a very brief summary of the decision in Target v Redferns and no real analysis of its practical implications for the conveyancing claims with which so many practitioners are having to deal.
BBL and all that is also mentioned only in passing, and the South Australia judgment came too late to be included. Indeed, few developments in the past year are mentioned, and the law discussed is largely as at autumn 1995.
Overall, the main value of the book will not be for quick reference but for practitioners wanting to read around the areas covered.