Wednesday May 24, 2017 07:48 am 
 
The Law Draftsman’s Song
(with apologies to W. S. Gilbert)

by John F. Wilson

Rising early in the morning,
We ensure before we go
That we sharpen up our pencils
For our work at QGO. (1)
Then we start without delay
On the duties of the day.

First we polish off some sections
Of a Bill about elections,
With Explanatory Memo to be sent.
Then if business isn’t pressing,
We may take a Chinese lesson,
Or localise an Act of Parliament. (2)

Then we probably review the list of books
For keeping other colleagues off the hooks; (3)
Or receive with ceremonial and state
An interesting Peking delegate. (4)

After that we might take off a
Little time to have a coffee
(Notwithstanding that we’re busy
And despite the AG’s ban.) (5)
Write a memo literary
For some Branch’s Secretary
(They are shaky in their spelling
So we help them if we can.) (6)
Next we help in the translation
Of a piece of legislation,
Then we mug up on our Roget
And our Concise OED.
Spend an hour in placing commas –
Though they’ll soon be taken from us – (7)
Or we draft a legal notice
For the Governor in C. (8)

Chorus
Oh, the other lawyers sing
Of the boredom of drafting,
Yet the duties are delightful
And the privileges free.
But the privilege and pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure,
Is to draft a legal notice
For the Governor in C.

Notes
1. Queensway Government Offices, Hong Kong, where the Law Drafting Division is situated.
2. The ‘localisation’ of British laws which previously applied to Hong Kong was a major task in the years before 1997.
3. I was LDD rep. on the Chambers Library Committee for several years.
4. The LDD was often involved in briefings for mainland Chinese lawyers before 1997.
5. An ‘in’ joke about avoiding the use of ‘notwithstanding’ as part of a move towards plain English; also about a ban on long coffee breaks.
6. Government departments were called ‘Branches’ before 1997; now called ‘Bureaus’. No change otherwise.
7. Probably by the ever-assiduous Law Clerks in LDD.
8. Governor-in-Council, for those born after 1997.

 

Links

~ Prince Splendid and the Dream Machine
~ The Commencement Conundrum
~ The Law Draftsman's Song
~ Hush Hush
~ The "Mod" Attorney-General
~ To the Lancaster Jurors
~ Contrasts - the challenges of drafting in a developing country

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