The first edition of these books was prepared and published in 1911 and 1912, largely with the idea of meeting the class room needs of the author's own students. They have, however, been widely sold throughout the country and used in a large number of schools and colleges with much success.
A revision is now offered in order to enable the author to extend somewhat the scope of the work as well as to incorporate some new ideas and bring the work down to date.
Time was when an author of books upon business law, adapted for use in lay instruction, felt called upon to justify his endeavor. The law was a holy and mysterious thing not meant for common gaze. Possibly this view was based upon a belief that "a little learning was a dangerous thing." The obvious answer that if a little is dangerous, safety lies in getting more, was overlooked. For law is something with which the business man must deal. There is no escape. He cannot leave it alone. Every business man is continually dealing with legal facts. He is held by legal presumption to a knowledge of the law. How absurd to say that he must make contracts, but must not have explained to him that there is such a thing as consideration, or a statute of frauds, or a parol evidence rule; that he must become bound upon negotiable paper, but must not know the significance of its negotiable quality. If it is felt that he will strive to be "his own lawyer," the fear is groundless. In a certain sense every man is his own lawyer, just as every one is his own physician. But in so far as that expression means that the reader will strive to dispense with the services of an expert where an expert is needed, experience shows that the more one knows of law, and the more generally intelligent he is, the less likely he is to step into legal pitfalls. In that sense only, the lawyer loses business.
Law of business arises out of business practices and business needs; it is, or should be, to serve business. To serve business efficiently a business man should know of it as much as he can; not in order to practice it, for he has neither the skill nor the time for that, and the more he studies law, the more he realizes that fact.
The layman who studies these pages will realize the vastness of the field of law. He will appreciate that it is as broad as human endeavor; that it has countless applications; that it is ever in development. He will, however, learn also, that some principles of law have become fundamental, that some rules and practices of law have become permanently established and can be relied upon not to change; that he can acquire practical knowledge that will help him in immediate ways in his own business ; and that he must, not alone for safety's sake, but to have workmanlike assistance, consult the expert when occasion demands.
A study of law strengthens the reasoning faculties, broadens the general view, and has an important part in one's liberal education.
A few forms have been appended. The author is, however, not a great believer in the desirability of forms in a book of this character. Forms of deeds, charters, etc., are primarily for the lawyer, and each jurisdiction has its variations. Hence, there has been no attempt to do much in the way of forms.
Questions and problems follow each text. Authorities are quoted more extensively than in the first edition, and are to enable further research where it is desired.
Alfred W. Bays. Chicago, September 1, 1920.