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Inns of Court

It is proper next to notice the institutions in which are supposed to be bred and educated the professors of the law;—but they are now in name only what they were formerly in reality. Instead of any public "moots," exercises, and duties, to be observed by students, previously to their being privileged to be called to the bar; they have now only to eat a certain number of dinners, during the terms of three or five years, in one of the inns of court, the expense of which, together with a species of fine, amounts to about 130l. Having undergone this probationary requisite, then are the students qualified to be admitted to the bar, if they can get members of the society to move that they be called, even though the party so recommended had never once seen a law-book. There is seldom any objection to the call; it is not, however, always a matter of course. The celebrated Horne Tooke, who studied for the pulpit, the senate, and the bar, found himself baffled in all those pursuits;—the motion that he be called to the bar, after he had regularly gone his terms, was negatived by a majority of one! But although much pleasantry has been occasioned by the practice of thus eating the way to the bar, it must not be presumed that no preparatory study is pursued. Public courses of study were found inefficacious, and were abandoned; but all those who have risen to celebrity as lawyers, laid the foundation of their greatness by sheer hard study. The young men not only apply themselves to courses of law-reading, but come into the practice of the laws, and the application of their own researches, by articling themselves as pupils to leading special pleaders, counsel, &c. Two or three hundred guineas are frequently paid for permission to study in the office of a special pleader, or barrister of high consideration and great practice. The study of the law is the surest road to greatness in the state. The method which lawyers are obliged to pursue in all their studies and pleadings, gives them advantages in public life, in the senate as well as at the bar, over every-body else; and hence may he traced the amazing success and celebrity that often attends them in life, bumble individuals rising to be the first law-officers and ministers of the crown.

As a member of the law is obliged to belong to an inn of court, and as the students and practisers generally take up their residence in chambers in some of the inns, thus have those courts become famed for the production of men of learning.—The inns of court are governed by masters, principals, benchers, stewards, &c. They have not any judicial authority over their members. For lighter offences, persons are only excluded, or not allowed to eat at the common table with the rest; and for greater, they lose their chambers; and, when once expelled from one society, they are never received by any of the rest.—As the societies are not incorporated, they have no lands or revenues, nor any thing for defraying the charges of the house, but what is paid for admissions, and other dues for the chambers.—The members may be divided into benchers, outer barristers, inner barristers, and students. The benchers are the seniors, who have the government of the whole house; and out of these is annually chosen a treasurer, who receives, disburses, and accounts for all the money belonging to the house.

The principal inns of court are four. The Inner Temple, and Middle Temple, Lincoln's inn, and Gray's Inn.

Related pages:


Lord Chancellor's Court

Vice-Chancellor's Court



King's Bench

Common Pleas

Exchequer Chamber

Courts of Requests

Court of Admiralty

Doctors' Common

Insolvent Debtors' Court

Law Proceedings

Mode of making a Judge

Old Bailey Sessions

The Temple, Inner, Middle

Lincoln's Inn

Gray's Inn

The Inns of Chancery

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819