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Review of the Insolvency Law Handbook by Vernon Dennis, plus an exclusive discount for IPA members from the Law Society

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Review by Kevin Hellard, IPA President

I was pleased to be asked to review this fourth edition of the Insolvency Law Handbook written by Vernon Dennis, who as I’m sure you know is a very experienced and respected legal practitioner in the field. The book consolidates the crucial updates to the practice area, making it something of a must have book for busy practitioners. This is a valuable addition to the library and is likely to become well- thumbed very quickly. Here we have a handbook which deals with the huge impact of the Insolvency Rules 2016, as well as the swift legislative action we have seen with the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act (CIGA 2020). It is particularly helpful to have all the changes in one place.

The main body of this book is chronological in fashion; divided into three parts, setting out pre-commencement considerations, the various insolvency procedures, then finally post-commencement considerations.

The first two chapters of the book take a broad-brush look at insolvency as a concept, and the various options are available to individuals. These early sections are undoubtedly helpful to non-practitioners and junior lawyers or students – anyone who wants a decent introduction to insolvency.

The main thrust of the book begins at Chapter Three, which deals with the corporate debtor and the options available when they are faced with a statutory demand and the possible commencement of an insolvency procedure. This chapter offers important updates to the last handbook, namely the moratorium process and the restructuring plan, introduced by CIGA 2020, as well as running through Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) and more traditional and well-established procedures. The bridge between the theory and practice is short and robust; we have clear commentary from Vernon, who elucidates the most pertinent practical points for the reader. The section referring to CIGA 2020 s.7 and s.9, which inserts a new Part 26A into the CA 2006 (ss.901A-901K) is particularly helpful; the provision has similarities to the current CA 2006 scheme of arrangement, but of course with the addition of the ‘cross-class cram-down’. This novel addition, well outlined in Chapter 3, was certainly helpful to me in a current live matter.

Chapters 4 and 5 deal with advising a creditor in the case of an insolvent personal debtor, and an insolvent corporate debtor, respectively. The following chapters deal with bankruptcy, the receivership process, and the liquidation processes. Vernon then goes through post-commencement considerations, covering absolutely everything, pulling out all the stops as he goes along, step-by-step.

This book isn’t simply a robust guidebook. It is sprinkled with humour; indeed, from the onset, there is a self-aware nod towards its own crystal-ball gazing. Chapter 14 – the final chapter – brushes on Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. Coming full circle, Vernon finishes by considering what now lays in store for insolvency law, ending by quoting the same conclusion as the 2004 first edition of this book: in the ‘legendary’ words of US Secretary of Donald Rumsfeld, which he states remains as true today as they were then – that there are and continue to be “unknown unknowns”. This is a fitting, entertaining ending to this latest update.

In summary, a much-needed and overdue new edition of the handbook, particularly in terms of the huge changes we have seen in the last few years, not to mention the complexities of the current climate. Indeed, as the author himself states, insolvency law remains highly influenced by the prevailing economic weather – and the practices and processes are tested in times of distress. This is perhaps one of the reasons that makes this work of ours so interesting. As we know from experience, when it rains, it pours! So, a job well done from Vernon. A much-needed Fourth Edition which will no doubt be put to good use by many in the current climate.

Kevin Hellard

Kevin Hellard is President of the Insolvency Practitioners Association. He is also the Practice Leader of Grant Thornton’s Insolvency and Asset Recovery Team.