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Bar of England, which has so long been entrusted to the Societies of the Inns of Court, is effectual in supporting the honour and dignity of the profession, and whether the discipline which the benchers of these Inns enforce, and their mode of proceeding in the cases brought before them, provide sufficient guarantees to the public. In the observations which I shall venture to offer to you on this topic, I shall, for the most part, confine myself to the nature and origin of the jurisdiction of the Inns of Court and their benchers—to the manner in which that jurisdiction is exercised—to some of the principal rules of discipline and etiquette-to the uncertainty of many of the rules themselves—and to the inconvenience thus resulting to the Bar and to the public.
The Bar of England cannot, with any certainty, be traced further back in our history than the 13th century; for it was not till after the Magna Charta that the Courts of Law were permanently settled at Westminster, instead of following, as previously, the king's person in his journeys through the country; and it was about the same time that persons, no longer of the clerical order, practising as barristers and attending the Court, formed themselves into societies, which were partly intended as seminaries of learning and partly as bodies for the maintenance of discipline among their order.* Although there is no account extant of the founding of these Inns or Societies, it is certain that, from a very early period, they were recognised by the Courts of Justice, and that to thei members was conceded the exclusive right of being heard on behalf of suitors before the judges of the land in the superior Courts of Law. According to the best authorities, these four Inns of Court are to be considered in the nature of voluntary associations, which from time immemorial have had their powers delegated to them by the judges if they
* Dugdale's Origines Jurid., p. 141. Fortescue de Legibus., chap. 49.
1 It has been laid down by a high authority that Courts of Justice bave necessarily a power of determining what persons shall practise before them
have no corporate existence they act under no charters they are not amenable to any direct interference of the law by mandamus or otherwise — but the judges of the land, acting as visitors, have a certain authority over them; and the ancient, usual, and only way of redress to members for any grievance in the Inns is by appeal to the judges.*
However obscure the origin of these Societies or Inns of Court and their jurisdiction, it is not difficult to account for them when we look back at the early history of oui social institutions. We may recollect that in those times every trade or profession was subject to its special rules and bye-laws, either determined and enforced by law or by its own guild or corporation — rules which had in view the education of the members of the trade or
or profession, the enforcement of honesty among them, the regulation of wages and fees, the prevention of competition, the limitation of their numbers, and other similar objects ; but while in most professions and trades these guilds have disappeared, leaving little or no trace behind them but their ancient halls and their large revenues, which are now disposed of in feasting and charity, and while the laws which interfered with the regulation of wages and competition have from time to time been repealed, so far as they affected inferior trades and professions, in conformity with the advance of the doctrine of Free Trade, with the Bar it is otherwise; there the old organization has survived, and some little of its power over its members.
In looking back at the annals of the Inns of Court, we find that, from an early date, the judges, acting in their as advocates; that in this country this power or duty has been delegated to the Inns of Court; but that in the colonies where there are no similar societies, the power of admission suspending or disbarring Barristers has been rightly exercised by the judges. A case was referred to where the Recorder's Court of Bombay had suspended from practice for six months the whole Bar. See Lord Wynford in the Justices of Antigua, 1 Knapps P. C. Cases, p. 267.
* Boorman's Case ; March Rep. 177 ; Townshend's Case; 2 Sir J. Raymond's Rep. 69. R. v. Gray's Inn; Doug. 353; R. v. Lincoln's Inn ; 4 Barnewall v. Cresswell Rep 855.
character as visitors, from time to time issued orders, with the consent of the benchers of the Inns of Court, with respect to the discipline of their members. Though far from numerous, these orders appear to have had in view such objects as the special training in learning of their students, the moral and professional conduct of barristers, the due limitation of their numbers, and the prevention of competition.
For example, in 1557, 3 and 4 Philip and Mary, an order of all the Inns of Court was made:
“None attorney shall be admitted. In all admissions henceforth this condition implied, that if he that is admitted practise any attorneyship, ipso facto, he be dismissed, and to have liberty to repair to the Inn of Chancery whence he came.
Again, in the year 1574 :
“ Orders necessary for the government of the Inns of Court, established by the commandment of the Queen's Majesty, with the advice of her Privy Council and the Justices of her Bench and the Common Pleas (signed by Bacon, Burleigh, and Walsingham). Imprimis: That no more in number be admitted from henceforth than the chambers of the houses will receive after two to a chamber. Nor that any more chambers shall be builded to increase the number; saving that in the Middle Temple they may convert their old hall into chambers not exceeding ten.
“If any hereafter admitted in court practise as attorneys or solicitors, they shall be dismissed and expulsed out of their houses thereupon.
“ None to be allowed to plead before the Justices of Assizes except he be allowed for a pleader in the Courts of Westminster, or shall be allowed by the Justices of Assizes to plead before them." +
Again, in the year 1596, it was agreed by all the judges, with the assent of the benchers of the four Inns of Court, * Dugdale's Origines, p. 311.
† Ib. p. 312.
that hereafter none shall be admitted into the Inns of Court till he may have a chamber within the house, and in the meantime to be of some Inn of Chancery. That there be in one year only four outer barristers called in any one Inn of Court.
That such students be called who be fittest for their learning and honest conversation, and well given.
In another place I find an order which has certainly of late years, though unrepealed, been neglected :
“ That no fellow of these societies should wear any beard above a fortnight's growth.”
In the first year of James I. an order was made, signed by Sir E. Coke, that none be hereafter admitted into the Society of any house of Court that is not a gentleman by descent. f
In the twelfth year of the same king “Orders for the reformation and better government of the Inns of Court and Chancery, agreed upon by the common and uniform consent of the readers and benchers, and the four houses and Courts, which orders proceeded first from his Majesty's especial care and commandment, and were after recommended by the said readers and benchers, by the grave direction and advice of all the judges.
“For that the Societies ought to give a powerful example of good government in matters of religion, and to be free not only from the crime, but from the suspicion of ill affection in that mind, it is ordered :That every gentleman of the several Societies aforesaid which shall be in commons at any time within one year after the publishing of these orders, and shall not receive the communion by the space of one year together, shall be expelled, ipso facto.
* Dugdale's Origines, p. 316. † Ib. p. 316; Fortescue de Legibus, p. 111. So also at Rome, under the kings and in the early times of the republic, advocacy was confined to the Patrician order, in whom, however, it was a duty as well as a privilege.
“For that there ought always to be preserved a difference between a counsellor-at-law, which is the principal person next unto serjeants and judges in administration of justice, and attorneys and solicitors, which are but ministerial persons, and of an inferior nature; therefore it is ordered: That from henceforth no common attorney or solicitor shall be admitted to any of the four houses of Court.
“For that the over great multitude in any vocation or profession doth but bring the same into contempt, and that an excessive number of lawyers may have a farther inconvenience in respect of multiplying of needless suits, it is therefore ordered: That there shall not be called to the Barr, in any one year, by readers or benchers in any one Society, above the number of eight.
s. That for the time to come no outer barrister begin to practise publickly at any Barr at Westminster until he hath .been three years at the Barr."*
With the exception of these and a very few similar orders, directed by the judges to the Inns of Court, which are to be found in Dugdale’s Origines, and which relate, in many cases, to such matters as the dress and general demeanour of members of the Inns, there is no record of for the guidance of these Inns, or for the admission, regulation, and discipline of their members. The existence, however, of these rules is important, as showing that the sovereign, by advice of the judges, and, in some cases, without the consent of the benchers, issued directions for the guidance of the Inns of Court-precedents which it will be well to bear in mind.
All attempt at limiting the number of admissions, or ascertaining the legal qualifications of candidates, has long been abandoned; and, for many years past, almost the only condition of admission to the Inns has been a certificate of fitness and respectability signed by a bencher of the Inn or by two
* Dugdale's Origines, p. 317.