Legal opinion

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Legal opinion. (n): 1. A long and detailed disclaimer of its own liability which a law firm will charge you handsomely for preparing.

2. A document designed to achieve exactly the opposite effect to the one its addressee anticipates, in that it carries as little by way of meaningful existential content as possible, while being as comprehensive, categorical and absolute as it can be about what it is not saying. Which is, more or less, everything.

This is typical of the sum total of the positive statement of the law you find in a legal opinion:

(Subject always to the qualifications, assumptions and caveats set out on pages 4-85)[1], this agreement is enforceable in accordance with its terms.

Which is a lawyer’s way of saying “Brexit means Brexit”. Should the agreement your solicitor has prepared for you make no sense whatsoever; if it is plainly impossible for an ordinary Englishman to divine the merchants’ commercial consensus no matter how carefully one examines the text — hardly an inconceivable contingency when that agreement was drawn up by a lawyer — then your expensively wrangled opinion does no more than verify that sorry state of affairs.

From the Jolly Contrarian’s stock of old adages that might not mean very much: “A legal opinion is just an onion with pi in it.”

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  1. And Schedule 3, and the four appendices to our letter of engagement for that matter.