Is Law for you? ….Well is it? How do you know? Who told you it might be? These are all questions posed by Chris Stoakes at the beginning of his book ‘Is Law for you?’ – a personal guide to the law in which he explains how it works, what it’s like and what being a lawyer is all about.
And Chris should know. Having studied at one of the best universities in the UK, qualified as a solicitor, worked both in practice and as a marketing partner in a City law firm, worked as a journalist, been a management consultant to law firms, designed and taught in professional legal education (including The College of Law) and been head of legal training and director of knowledge management at one of the biggest law firms in the world (pause for breath), Chris knows what it means to have a career in the law. His book is a personal account of getting to grips with the sometimes complex and quirky characteristics of a subject that bores and confuses many who are not fortunate enough to encounter a guide who will make the incomprehensible simple, and the obtuse clear.
Back in the day, law students embarking on their first tentative steps would be issued with Glanville Williams’ book ‘Learning the Law’, critically acclaimed as one of the most influential introductory texts to the world of law. I’ve still got my copy somewhere. Well, Chris Stoakes’ ‘Is Law for you?’ is a ‘Learning the Law’ for the 21st Century, a highly practical book that never ducks the complexities of the law, but addresses them head-on and explains them in everyday words and scenarios that are easy to understand and, more importantly, easy to relate to.
The book deliberately starts with something interesting – murder! Right from the beginning, Chris Stoakes writes with an enthusiasm for the law which he quite clearly wants to communicate and share with the reader. Separate chapters are dedicated to the five pillars of law – Criminal, Tort, Contract, Property and Equity. The book then looks at comparative law, the business of law, legal systems and finally, jurisprudence. I know what you’re thinking. What you’re thinking is – that all sounds very dry and dull. Well it would be. But if I then tell you the titles of some of the chapters, ‘I bought a monster from outer space (several, actually)’, ‘How to steal a rock star’, and ‘How to make a lot of money without having to try’…well, you get the picture. Each chapter is also written from an autobiographical point of view. So, in addition to learning about the law, we also learn about the author and a career in law that has been both full and rewarding. Important legal terminology is in bold text for ease of reference and to stress importance whenever it appears throughout the book. There is no list of statutes, no list of cases cited, not even an index, something which the author makes light of at the very end of the book. Each chapter discusses its subject using real life scenarios and there are several running themes throughout the book which help to both tie the various topics together and light-heartedly explain how areas of law interact.
If the best academic writers are those that write clearly, concisely, and explain complex ideas simply, then Chris Stoakes has succeeded with ‘Is Law for you?’ It is a book that I would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone thinking of a career in law or who just has a general interest in the subject. At the very end of the book, the author claims, ‘This isn’t a reference book. It’s a buy, browse and bin book’. No, Chris, it is a very well-written, entertaining and informative book, one to which I shall return and to which I shall refer whenever I need to explain an area of law in easy-to-understand terms or to relate a practical scenario to enthuse students. Well done!
Nigel Hudson, Practice Head (Real Estate), The College of Law