Talk:Legal instrument

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Is a Contract of Employment or a Collective Bargaining Agreement a Legal Instrument - like a Will or Act ot Parliament or Deed?

Yes. Though the sense of the phrase doesn't usually include Statutes, I suppose it can. In developed countries unions often negotiate employment contracts with employers, which may be later taken to court for enforcement in case of disputes. ww 18:32, 4 September 2005 (UTC)


User:Flibjib8 has twice added this passage:

Based on their formality, authority, and degree of authenticity, legal instruments can be classified into four categories:
    • Instruments under hand - validated by signature of author[1]
      • simple contract, affidavit, promissory note
    • Instruments under seal - validated by seal (and often signature) of author[2]
      • covenants, corporate contracts, certificates, letters of authentication, lawyer's writings
    • Instruments in solemn form or deeds - validated by signature of author and attesting witnesses
      • bonds, wills, conveyances, mortgages, diplomas, powers of attorney, patents, contracts by deed
    • Public instruments - validated by signature of author and attesting witnesses and recorded with a public office or employee and bears their seal
      • notarial acts, court orders, legislative acts, statutory instruments, vital records

The first time, it had no sources. When a {{fact}} tag did not elicit any sources I deleted it. Now it is back, with a self-published source from someone named Kevin Boone, who describes himself as a "scientist, engineer, and educator". This source does not come close to meeting the requirements at Wikipedia:Verifiability and Wikipedia:Reliable sources.

In addition, I dispute the correctness of the passage. First, these are not good categories because many of them overlap. Second, the claim that deeds are validated by attesting witnesses is false for many states in the U.S. --Jc3s5h (talk) 18:47, 20 May 2009 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Law Glossary", op. cit., s.v. "instrument under hand", retrieved on 20 May 2009: [1].
  2. ^ "Law Glossary", op. cit., s.v. "instrument under hand", retrieved on 20 May 2009: [2].

instrument types[edit]

First, let me begin by saying you left me very little time to provide you with sources. Three days might have been nice. I was in the middle of adding sources, of course, when you deleted the section for a second time.

Second, it is important that you realize that a deed has several meanings, one of the oldest referring to a general category of legal instrument, as opposed to its most modern and somewhat more restricted meaning of "title transfer or conveyance", which was originally only one type of deed. U.S. state laws are immaterial (not to mention parochial - remember: this is not an Americans-only encyclopedia) since they only apply to deeds in the title transfer sense of the word. You might like to research the topic yourself; you can begin here: [3] and [4], among others.

Third, I am not sure where you see overlap, but I will say that all require signatures, the last three originally required seals, the last two witnesses, and the last a competent public authority, and in this way, each category builds from the previous one by adding a requirement for validity in order to give the instrument increasing "authenticity", that is, greater evidentiary status at court. Is this your overlap? Or perhaps you mean things appear to be in several categories, like a contract; keep in mind that a contract can be executed in simple or solemn form, that is, as an instrument under hand or a deed (instrument in solemn form), hence the expressions "contract under hand", "contract under seal" (a.k.a. "specialty"), and "contract by deed". This means that some document types do not neatly fit into any one category.

You may have misgivings because the US does not appear to explicitly use these categories or terminology, though the law clearly makes these distinctions.

A good example is a will. Wills have to undergo probate for the sole purpose of guaging their validity which is solely based on how the document was executed. Wills can be in common form (e.g., holographic will - that is, under hand), they can be in solemn form (i.e., they are under hand and witnessed), or they can be in public form (i.e., a notarial will - under hand, witnessed, and attested by public authority (cf. Louisiana, British Columbia, London, South Africa, civil-law jurisdictions)), each one being more authentic in the eyes of the law than the previous one.

Lastly, as far as Kevin Boone's qualifications go, he states quite clearly that he has an LLB [5]; I would therefore consider him a reasonable expert on the subject of law.

Based on all this, would you kindly restore my section.

Flibjib8 (talk) 20:15, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

First, do you know how to create a sandbox? Extensive passages are best created in a sandbox, rather than making large numbers of edits to the article. You can also point people to your sandbox from the talk page to discuss whether the new material is in adequate form to add to the article.
Second, Kevin Boone does not say he earned an LLB (unless I missed it), he says he "was studying" for his LLB. Whether he actually received the degree is unclear. Furthermore, this statement is on a personal web site and is not verified; We know of no reliable source (like a newspaper or national registry of solicitors) saying he earned one. Even if he did, the standard for using self published sources is that they be "produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications" (Wikipedia: Reliable sources). I am not aware that Kevin Boone has published on the topic of law in a reliable third-party publication. I also noticed that his definitions don't have any sources; while I am not a lawyer, the legal publications I've seen usually have extensive citations. This makes me think that while the work may be adequate as Mr. Boone's private notes, it doesn't seem like a reliable legal publication.
As you say, Wikipedia is an international publication. Sweeping statements should not be made that don't apply everywhere (especially statements that don't apply to large areas of the English-speaking world). If statements only apply in certain jurisdictions, the statements should be so qualified.
Finally, categories are often thought of as mutually exclusive, or nearly so. If the types you describe actually indicate steps of increasingly rigorous authentication, they should be so described. --Jc3s5h (talk) 22:40, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

Encryption vs Digital Signature[edit]

Re: First paragraph in section entitled: "Electronic legal documents" The statement: To prevent tampering or unauthorized changes to the original document, encryption is used. is not strictly true. Encryption does not necessarily prevent tampering or unauthorized changes, nor does it make any such alteration detectable. What I believe you are referring to is the process of digital signing, wherein an asymmetric mathematical function is applied to the message which cannot easily be forged without knowledge of the private key material belonging to the message signer. In this process the message itself is usually delivered in clear-text and so is not encrypted.

If only a shared key algorithm is required to verify the signed document then by the very nature of shared key algorithms a forged document may be created by the recipient and does not therefore prove any authenticity of the message to the sender or any observer should that be required (c.f. all parties having the same wax seals).

RSA, a popular asymmetric encryption algorithm, (and other similarly algorithms), may be used to digitally sign a document by "encrypting" small chunks of the message serially (or by applying a digest algorithm to the message, signing it and delivering both the signed digest and the message to the recipient). Here the term encryption is perhaps misleading as, for RSA, one has a private key and a public key; the public key is by design to be a well distributed key; the private key is intended to be known only to its owner. The signing algorithm makes use of the private key whereas the verification step makes use of its public counterpart. Therefore, the "encrypted" message is more like an encoded message where any recipient should be able to derive the message contents using the generally available public key, but will not easily be able to generate a new signature for a forged message that will later verify with the original public key.

The strength of a digital signature depends on the security of the private key (which the signer will have a vested interest in assuring), the strength of the message digest (if used -- some messages may be constructed such that the digest of two different messages are identical -- see birthday attacks), and the computational difficulty of calculating the private key given data such as the public key itself. --Nimpo (talk) 15:37, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

I suspect the editor who wrote that was simplifying the situation; some digital signatures make alterations detectable, and some digital signatures accomplish their goal of making tampering evident through the use of asymmetric encryption. That sentence really should be reworded, but given the many conflicting definitions of basic terms, it isn't easy. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:58, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

Requested move 31 March 2016[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Not moved Mike Cline (talk) 14:08, 11 April 2016 (UTC)

Legal instrumentLegal document – more established. Abc82 (talk) 11:53, 31 March 2016 (UTC)

  • @Abc82: It looks like you've forgotten to provide a rationale for this move. Procedural oppose until you do. —Nizolan (talk) 14:08, 31 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Provided. -- Abc82 (talk) 17:46, 31 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Support. An ngram seems to confirm that legal document is more commonly used in books.[6]  — Amakuru (talk) 12:22, 8 April 2016 (UTC)
    • But are they the same thing?  AjaxSmack  02:04, 9 April 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose without evidence that the two terms refer to the same thing. All of the sources use "instrument". —  AjaxSmack  02:04, 9 April 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose - a legal instrument is a type of legal document, which is a much broader term. Not the same thing. Bazonka (talk) 15:46, 10 April 2016 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.