“Australian Insolvency Law”, 4th edition
Authors: Christopher Symes, David Brown and Sulette Lombard
Publisher: Lexis Nexis Butterworths
Perhaps ironically for a commercial litigator, I’ve never felt entirely at ease with insolvency law — probably because I never took an insolvency subject at university and so missed out on the high-level summary of the area which undergraduate study is supposed to give you. I’ve had to figure it out the old-fashioned way, by learning on the job. So, I was looking forward to this textbook to see if it matched the mental model I’ve developed over the years.
This is a textbook directed at students, rather than practitioners. It begins with a history of personal and corporate insolvency law and the changing philosophical treatment over centuries. The book is then divided into two parts: personal insolvency (bankruptcy) and corporate insolvency, each taking up six chapters. This gives a total of 13 chapters, each with problem questions at the end: it is hard not to conclude that the book is essentially the content of a semester’s undergraduate insolvency elective.
However, it is also a very useful resource for practising lawyers. It provides an excellent birds-eye view of the personal and corporate insolvency regimes, as well as detailed discussion of each aspect of the actual process of bankruptcy, receivership, administration and liquidation. During the month it has been on my desk, I’ve referred to it on six or seven different matters to see if it covers the particular issue at least in overview. It has not let me down. There is a “further reading” section at the end of each chapter suggesting relevant journal articles and, again, this makes for a good starting-point for more detailed thinking if necessary.
The writing style is clear and easy to follow, with well laid out text and figures. The footnotes do not exceed the text in word count (avoiding a common irritation) which means the bulk of the information is in the body of the book — another small but useful factor which makes it a very accessible read.
Reading the book straight through, it created a clear mental map of how the various insolvency processes work and how they connect with one another. Taking it in discrete chunks, while looking for an answer to a specific question, I found it was easy to find the relevant information as well as links to further research. All in all, a very useful addition to a commercial lawyer’s book shelf.