The way in which the common law, at least partially overcame the non-assignabillty of choses in action was by means of powers of attorney. Though the assignee could acquire no rights of his own, as such, the possibility was early recognized of giving a power of attorney to an assignee enabling him to sue in the name of the assignor, and it could further be agreed that what the assignee thus collected as attorney, he could keep for himself.13 The right of the assignee was still further assured by a covenant on the part of the assignor not to revoke the assignment. The next step taken by the law was to recognize that any assignment, though not expressly stating that the assignee should have power to collect or bring suit as the assignor's attorney, necessarily implied authority to do so, and an agreement not to revoke the power.
Sec. 409. Inadequacy of a power of attorney to protect the assignee. A mere authority created by a power of attorney is not in all respects, however, an adequate protection for the assignee of a claim. Several difficulties may be enumerated.
1. In spite of a covenant not to do so, the assignor might attempt to revoke the power of attorney expressly, or, revocation might be effected by implication of law, as by death.
2. If the assignee still remains the owner of the claim, his
13Pollock and Maitland find that this practice was recognised by the middle of the 13th century. 2 Hurt. Eng. Law, 226. See also 1 Lilly's Abr. 103; Lilly's Practical Register, 48. The assignee has often been called the agent of the assignor, but it has been pointed out that the assignee is acting on his own behalf and not for another. The criticism seems just, but it is merely verbal. The owner of property, tangible or intangible, may give another the power or authority to reduce the property to possession and, by so doing and not before, to become the owner of it.
bankruptcy by virtue of the bankruptcy statute might be expected to give title to his assignee in bankruptcy to the exclusion of an assignee claiming under a prior assignment if that is interpreted as giving a mere power of attorney,14 and an attachment by garnishment of the debt by a creditor of the assignor might be expected to prevail over a prior assignment. 3. The assignor might, by other assignments, appoint other persons with authority to collect the claim, and either they or the assignor himself might collect the claim in fraud of the original assignee. These difficulties were partly met by the jurisdiction which equity assumed over assignments at an early date.