The Pain of Legal Scholarship: The Case of Gates on Company Law

MANY legal scholars have expressed ambivalent fear of putting their thoughts to paper because of the reality of the ensuing pain should their publications be immediately overtaken by either legislation or new case law.

There are some fields of law that are constantly in motion and being updated in dizzying progression or retrogression as the case may be. Such areas of Law include Tax Law and Constitutional Law. A scholar has to keep updating his or her book in order to stay abreast with these constant changes. This task is made very difficult in countries like Zambia where a scholar is literally on his or her own. There are no government or university grants for research, engagement of legal researchers, no funded research sabbaticals and no funded publications assistance. In Canada and many other countries, including South South where the governments and universities  recognize the value of legal scholarship and its contribution to cultural, educational, civic, intellectual property and economic development etc, legal scholarship is funded. The fear of being outstripped by new case law and or legislation in those countries  is also lessened by the new technological developments in “loose-leaf” publications where new case law or legislation is immediately made available to publication companies that compile them and make them available to.legal scholars. In fact the publication companies publish them as inserts into already existing books and each person who purchased that publication receives printed or electronic inserts. At the end of the year, all developments in law in that field in that  year are compiled into one single publication. The original author does no longer do much. The publishers do the updating for him or her.

This aspect refers to case books. Textbooks are of a different and dreadful nature. They are the subject of this column relating to Zambia and why some scholars fear writing text books. And case books. Existing Zambian case books and textbooks as well as modules have not been updated for years.

The fear of being immediately overtaken by new legislation or case law is exemplified by the experience of Mr. Reagan Blankfein Gates and his book, “Gates Company Law and Practice in Zambia” 1st Ed. (Lusaka, 2017, 716 Pages). This is a massive book on Company Law and a lot of work and money went into researching, writing and publishing this first edition book. It was like Mr Gates was possessed with the spirit in doing this project. The book has 20 chapters starting with the history of Company Law.

Imagine now the pain Mr Gates felt when hardly had the book come out than new legislation on Company Law came out in 2017! Zambia had the same colonial-themed Company Law legislation from 1964 at independence to 1994 when the law was tinkered with. The only legal scholar who had dealt with that legislation, practice and doctrine was the indomitable Professor Kenneth Kaoma Mwenda in his book “Contemporary Issues in Zambian and English Company Law” (2011). Gates was the second, to tackle the subject matter in a systematic fashion validating the constant lamentation of the poverty of Legal scholars and legal scholarship in Zambia that there could only be two texts on Company Law in Zambia between 1964 and 2017. Other countries have many texts on this important area of existence. Zambia pales to pygmy status taking into account the importance of Company Law to the economic development of the country. The King of Company Law remained the English text by Gower on ” English Company Law”.

In fact, when I saw the advertisement of the Gates book on LinkedIn, I thought, “here we go again, a foreign author writing on Zambian Law”. The advert simply beckoned, “Gates on Company Law and Practice in Zambia, by Reagan Blankfein Gates”. I thought either the author was  an Englishman or a South African of Dutch extraction. Shortly thereafter the new legislation came out and my thoughts and sympathies immediately went out to Mr Gates. I thought to myself, the book was dead on arrival. But Mr Gates was ready to meet the challenge. He did not allow his monumental achievement to be overtaken by the new legislative avalanche. That is the beauty of modern technology and electronic storage facilities as well as scholarly determination. Gates immediately went to work and shortly thereafter produced a new version incorporating the new legislation: ” Gates on Understanding Company Law: A Conceptual and Functional Approach”(Lusaka, 2018, 493 pages). Both versions of the book have suggested readings at the end of each chapter but the real innovation of the first edition is the inclusion of Legal questions and suggested answers on Company Law. This is a real bonus to law students and others. The second edition  is superior of course because it is based on new legislation and updated case law and for law students as well as ZIALE students the book has an added advantage of engaging them in well considered recurring examination questions.

Gates’ books are as clearly and without clutter – written as any book you will ever read. Gates wastes no words. He does not entertain excess verbiage. He must have excellent editors. Gates has even gone further, he has written an accompanying or companion  case law book based on his main textbook. He has also produced a textbook on the Insolvency Act and written an accompanying  case book based on the Insolvency text book. All these four books are found both at Bookworld and Grey Matter bookstores.

Realising that we have a genius on Company and Insolvency Law in our midst and rearing to meet the man himself, I set up an appointment to get my own copies of this treasure. I met Mr Gates at Levy Junction and he signed my own copies of the books that he had brought with him. As we sat for coffee, I asked the man, “What is up with the name of R. Blankfein Gates. Are you Zambian”? He smiled, ” You know how it is Doc.” He did not have to explain to me the world in which we live.

I was not a company man before I read thoroughly Gates’ books on Company Law and Insolvency Law. It took me time to read them.  Four heavily researched and argued books. Now count me in the company. I recommend these books for every law student, lawyer and judge in Zambia.

Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches among other subjects,  Research Methodologies and Writing in Law.

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