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The Law of Documents June 17, 2016

“Sedley’s Laws of Documents”

He formulated what has come to be known as “Sedley’s Laws of Documents” after experiencing the tribulations of litigation:[17]

  1. First Law: Documents may be assembled in any order, provided it is not chronological, numerical or alphabetical.
  2. Second Law: Documents shall in no circumstances be paginated continuously.
  3. Third Law: No 2 copies of any bundle shall have the same pagination.
  4. Fourth Law: Every document shall carry at least 3 numbers in different places.
  5. Fifth Law: Any important documents shall be omitted.
  6. Sixth Law: At least 10 per cent of the documents shall appear more than once in the bundle.
  7. Seventh Law: As many photocopies as practicable shall be illegible, truncated or cropped.
  8. Eighth Law: At least 80 per cent of the documents shall be irrelevant. Counsel shall refer in Court to no more than 10 per cent of the documents, but these may include as many irrelevant ones as counsel or solicitor deems appropriate.
  9. Ninth Law: Only one side of any double-sided document shall be reproduced.
  10. Tenth Law: Transcriptions of manuscript documents shall bear as little relation as reasonably practicable to the original.
  11. Eleventh Law: Documents shall be held together, in the absolute discretion of the solicitor assembling them, by: a steel pin sharp enough to injure the reader; a staple too short to penetrate the full thickness of the bundle; tape binding so stitched that the bundle cannot be fully opened; or a ring or arch-binder, so damaged that the 2 arches do not meet.

From Ashes & Sparks by Stephen Sedley

Candidate for Law 12: Any pagination shall be in 4 point font, and placed close enough to the edge of the page to ensure it is cut off in all photocopies.

PM Project Services Ltd v Dairy Crest Ltd [2016] EWHC 1235

  1. All three limbs of the application are opposed by Dairy Crest. The second and third limbs of the application were supported by the witness statement of a Mr Dean, to which were exhibited documents running to over 750 pages. Unfortunately, the page references in Mr Dean’’s witness statement are different from those in the bundle prepared for the hearing and the original page numbers have not been retained. Thus, when Mr Dean refers to a TS01 Report dated 8 December 2015 at paragraph 22 of his witness statement, which is said to be found at pages 174-186 of his Exhibit MD6, this is of little help because that exhibit starts at page 400. Although it is not obvious, a careful perusal of the exhibits reveals that there is an index to each exhibit inserted behind the cover sheet. If one works one’’s way through the index for Exhibit MD6, the TS01 Report is shown as being at page 24. It is, in fact, at page 428 of the bundle. It is not at page 424, as one might expect, because a spreadsheet running to 4 numbered pages has been inserted immediately behind the index.
  2. In the application notice it was stated that three hours would be needed for the hearing, although it was in fact listed for half a day. It was suggested that three hours would be required for pre-reading, although in my view this estimate would have been on the low side even if the application bundles had been properly paginated. As it was, any sensible pre-reading was derailed by the manner of the pagination of the exhibits to Mr Dean’’s witness statement. After about two hours of reading the papers I concluded that the handicap presented by the pagination would prevent the necessary amount of reading taking place before the hearing. I therefore said at the outset of the hearing that I was not prepared to hear the second and third limbs of the application, but that I would hear the first (which did not rely on the evidence of Mr Dean). That is what happened: but, even so, the hearing of that claim alone took 1 hour and 45 minutes. If I had decided to embark on a hearing of all three limbs of the application, there is no prospect whatever that it could have been finished in a morning.
  3. I have directed that when this judgment has been handed down the bundles are to be returned to PM’’s solicitors in order that the witness statement of Mr Dean can have the correct bundle references inserted. The costs of that exercise and any costs thrown away by the necessity to adjourn the second and third limbs of the application must be borne by PM.


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