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13 St. Louis U. L.J. 351 (1968-1969)
Law Reform in Historical Perspective

handle is hein.journals/stlulj13 and id is 369 raw text is: LAW REFORM IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
The phrase, law reform, has no exact, objective meaning. When
one uses it, one is, first of all, referring to some program for changing
the law. The word reform implies that the change is for the better;
but everyone who proposes change thinks his proposals are good
ones. Yet not all programs of planned legal change are popularly
referred to as reform. The Social Security Act was the product of
long struggle for deliberate legal change; hardly anyone would call
it law reform. In common speech, the phrase law reform is typi-
cally applied to one of two kinds of legal change. Reform may con-
sist of a more or less general revision of the laws, or of some branch
of law, in the direction of consistency or systematic arrangement.
This is reform through codification, which has been (in the words of
Hessel Yntema) a cardinal vehicle of reform during the last cen-
tury of legal history.' General codification has not had a happy
time in the United States; but codification on a smaller scale has
become epidemic. Recently, the triumph of the Uniform Commercial
Code has given new vigor to this movement. The second use of the
phrase refers to procedural improvement-change in the housekeep-
ing aspects of justice. Law reform means the abolition of forms of
action, the adoption of better kinds of pleading, getting rid of clutter
in our dockets. In short, both in the mouths of laymen and lawyers
law reform has not necessarily stood for so grand a program as the
word reform may seem to promise. Throughout most of its range
of meaning, it has referred to what one might call, for now, lawyers'
law-to matters of primary concern to the legal profession: the
union of law and equity; centralization of state court systems, codifi-
cation of the law of bulk sales; abolition by statute of the rule in
Shelley's case; a Uniform Simultaneous Death Act. Exceptions,
such as the Uniform Commercial Code and general codification are,
as we shall see, only apparent exceptions. In law as in politics, re-
form is not revolution. Changes in the very marrow of American law
do not somehow achieve the title of law reform. The rise of the
welfare state; the growth of a staggering array of land use controls;
regulation of business; the mushrooming growth of the tax laws-
none of these are conventionally part of the century or more of re-
$ Professor of Law, Stanford School of Law.
1. Yntema, The Jurisprudence of Codification, in FIELD CENTENARY
ESSAYS 251 (Reppy ed. 1949).

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