A friend of mine, Andrey Goltsblat, the senior partner of the legal firm Goltsbat BLP, recently published a document advertising his company’s services for those who need to navigate their way through the new Russian Civil Code. His full advertisement can be found on the company’s website at: http://www.gblplaw.com/ I am sure it is highly useful and I trust readers of this blog will consider making use of Goltsblat BLP if they need to.
The document is worth quoting here because it illustrates the perils of having the wrong sort of person style-edit your texts (which Andrey assures me he has had done). The difficulty for Russians (and other nationalities) is that the employer cannot always know if the work has been done properly, or tastefully, unless someone tells him or her. I therefore make bold to publish this analysis of the Goltsblat document, with a fair copy as I would have written it, at the end.
The underlying problem is the way the text lurches from over-familiarity to inappropriate chattiness—though there are some other issues as will be seen below.
Taking the text from the document in Roman type, and my comments in sanserif type:
- “On 3 April 2012, the President of the Russian Federation introduced to the State Duma a draft federal law amending the Civil Code of the Russian Federation.”
Too formal and also repetitive. Better: “On 3 April 20102, President Medvedev introduced into the Duma a draft law amending the Russian Civil Code.”
- “On 27 April 2012, the Law was passed at the first reading without any serious objections or criticisms, even though it is an extensive, 461-page document. It is proposed to introduce new institutions and rules of the civil legislation and to amend, supplement and otherwise update many existing ones.”
Too congested, and not in chronological order. Better: “This is a 460-page document which introduces new institutions and rules of civil litigation, and changes many others. Despite this, it passed on its first reading without serious examination.”
- “The given amendments to the Civil Code of the Russian Legislation are to come into effect on 1 September 2012. We only have the summer before us to get our heads round and understand everything that is proposed.”
Too colloquial, and with mistakes. Better: “The amended Civil Code is scheduled to come into effect on 1 September. Lawyers have only six months to familiarise themselves with everything that is proposed.”
- “Goltsblat BLP lawyers who took an active part in drafting and discussing the amendments to the Civil Code of the Russian Federation have prepared for you an overview of the most significant of the proposed changes.”
Too formal. Better: “Some of our lawyers were involved in drafting the new law. They have prepared a summary of the most significant proposed changes.”
- “After these amendments come into force, we have several years ahead of us during which law enforcement practice will be developed. We, as lawyers, need to start working straight away to explain the new rules to our clients and the professional community, in order for law enforcers to be able to predict precisely how a given new institution works. The Judicial system in a civilised society must be truly independent. Judges must be irreproachably professional and enjoy an impeccable reputation. Unless these fundamentals of public life are achieved, any legislative initiatives will be still-born. People and their basic values must, of course, constitute the fulcrum of any state ideas. Yet it should not be forgotten that business, its needs and requirements are, in exactly the same way, ultimately orientated on improving our lives. Commercial relations in Russia today require a greater degree of discretion. If freedom of contract is artificially restrained, the result is precisely formal bad faith and sham transactions, which in our society have always provided the broadest scope for the Judicial whim of the authorities.”
Too stilted and sententious, and with too many statements of the obvious. One or two parts incomprehensible (I have therefore omitted them). Better: “After the new Code comes into force, we have several years ahead of us during which law enforcement practice will be developed. We, as lawyers, need to start working straight away to explain the new rules to our clients and the professional community. We also want to play our part in moving towards a fully independent judiciary operating a system of law based on accepted human values. At the same time, for commerce to flourish, we need legal certainty and a broader juridical environment in which the principle of sanctity of contract is understood and respected.”
Note as a non-linguistic issue: the phrase “freedom of contract” as used in the original text has some problematic connotations as it is associated in the public mind with unbridled capitalism. It was for Freedom of Contract that the US Supreme Court struck down so many of Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives when he was trying to pull the US out of the Great Depression. Western lawyers think of freedom of contract as being a situation in which the mighty can oppress the weak. I know it does not mean that literally, but it is a “bad karma” phrase in legal circles in this context, I would suggest. I suspect that the writer intended “sanctity of contract”, which is both acceptable and important to stress in a contemporary Russian context, where it is always under threat from non-judicial interference.
My fair copy:
On 3 April 2012, President Medvedev introduced into the Duma a draft law amending the Russian Civil Code. This was a 460-page document which proposed new rules of civil litigation, and changed many others. Despite its length and complexity, the Code was passed on its first reading without serious examination by legislators. It is scheduled to come into effect on 1 September, so the legal community has only six months to familiarise itself with it.
Some of our lawyers, who were involved in the original drafting, have prepared a summary of the most significant changes. After the new Code comes into force, there will be a period of several years during which law enforcement practice will be developed. We, as lawyers, need to start working straight away to explain the changes to our clients and the professional community. We also want to play our part in moving towards a fully independent judiciary, which applies a system of law based on internationally accepted human values. At the same time, for commerce to flourish, we need legal certainty and a broader juridical environment in which the principle of sanctity of contract is understood and respected.
We have therefore prepared for your benefit the following summary of what we see as the most significant aspects of the new Code.