THE INNS OF COURT.
IN May 1854 Commissioners were appointed by the Queen " to in- quire into the arrangements of the Inns of Courts, [and also those of the Inns of Chancery,] for promoting the study of the Law and Jurisprudence, the revenues properly applicable, and the means most likely to secure a systematic and sound education for students of the law, and to provide satisfactory tests of fitness for admission to the bar." The report of the Commissioners is now before the public. Formerly there existed some means, imperfect enough, for teach-
ing law in the Inns of Court, and there are glimmerings of such things in the Inns of Chancery ; but they fell into decay, and con- tinued decayed and dead until 1833. The Inner Temple then in- stituted two lectureships ; but although the lecturers were men of eminence, the attendance was so scanty that they ceased. Again the two Temples and the Society of Gray's Inn attempted, in 1847, to carry on the lecturing ; the Gray's Inn lectures followed by vo- luntary examinations. The Temple lectureships rather languished, the Gray's Inn flourished. In 1851 the present Solicitor-General con- vened the Benchers of the four Inns of Court, and a Council of Legal Education was elected ; two Benchers for each Inn. It was their function to provide readers, who could give lectures and hold private classes. Readers were appointed, and public examinations were held, with studentships of fifty guineas each for the beat examina- tion. The lectures had a certain degree of utility ; but the exa- minations, although voluntary, have tended to keep back candi- dates. The attorneys and solicitors had preceded the bar in esta- blishing lectureships, but they reversed the rule. With them examination for admission to the Law Society [of solicitors] is com- pulsory, the attendance to the lectures is voluntary ; and amongst the persons examined the general opinion appears to be in favour of this rule—voluntary attendance at lectures, and compulsory exa- mination as a test of fitness in admission to the bar.
Some difficulty arises at first from the want of funds. The Inns of Chancery appear to have no available means; and practically the only reliance is upon the Inns of Court, which have ostensible incomes of some value. The Inner Temple has 21,0001., the Mid- dle Temple 10,000/., Lincoln's Inn 18,0001., Gray's Inn between 8000/. and 90001. But the expenses in these Inns are consider- able, particularly for the improvements and repairs, which consti- tute a great burden upon the present income. In some, as in the Middle Temple, the property is in so bad a state that the repairs must be regarded as a permanent encumbrance. Thus, Lincoln's Inn has a surplus of less than 4000/. ; the Middle Temple about 12601., expended on the chapel and library ; the Inner Temple 69341., of which 1800/. is spent on the library with repairs in prospect. Gray's Inn has no surplus worth speaking of. The plan of the Commissioners consists in carrying out the last improvement somewhat further. They propose that the four Inns of Court should be joined in an University with a preliminary ex- amination for admission to the Inns of Court of those who have not taken University degree, and a further examination for a call to the bar. The University would consist of Masters of Laws, Barristers at Law, and a Principal ; the last to be elected for life by the Barristers [including Sergeants] and Masters of Laws; the government to be aided by a Senate of thirty-two members, eight from each Inn, one-fourth to retire annually ; the Senate to elect a Vice-Chancellor. The preliminary examination to consist of English history and Latin. The examination for a degree is di- vided into two branches ; consisting of—first, constitutional law and legal history, jurisprudence, and the Roman civil law; se- condly, common law, equity, and the law of real property. In- creased expenses to be provided by additional fees levied from the students.
This would at least introduce two elements, the want of which
is very apparent in the present arrangements,—something more like equality and uniformity in the working, and something more like a practical certificate in the titles conferred by the Inns of Court jointly. At present, " barrister-at-law" means nothing, except that the person possessing it would be able to pay a sum of money, and to give that general certificate of moral conduct, at and so forth, which any gentleman can give. And perhaps the first thing that strikes the inquirer is the extreme inequality of the charges in the different Inns. The students' fees in the Inner Temple amount to 101. 5s. 2d., in the Middle Temple to 101., in Lincoln's Inn to Si. 2s. 10d., in Gray's Inn to 81. 6s. 3d. The call to the bar is 321. in the Inner Temple, 371. in the Middle, 211. in Lincoln's Inn, just under 221. in Gray's Inn. The call to the bench varies from 3311. in the Middle Temple to 261. in Lin- coln's Inn. The annual payment by barristers is a little under or over a pound in all the Inns, except Lincoln's Inn, where it is 31. 68. 10d.
There is an air of haphazard about the whole condition and origin of the Inns of Court. They are not incorporations, but voluntary societies ; and their tenure varies in each case. The Inner and Middle Temple appear to hold under a grant of James I.; but Mr. Whateley, the n-easurer of the Inner Temple, is very anxious to show that the grant of James, if it had any effect, only extinguished the predxistent title, which was derived from the Knights Hospitallers of St. John. Upon the dissolution of the Knights Templars, the lawyers made a composition with the Earl of Lincoln, to whom the Temple escheated ; and they have " congre- gated " there ever since, that is to say, from the year 1315; the grant of James was only intended to settle anxieties in the Tem- piers as to their tenure. The earliest muniments of Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn afford no evidence of any grant. Gray's Inn ap- pears to have been purchased from the De Grey family ; and Lincoln's Inn from the Earl of Lincoln,—and there is not a trace of its being held upon any trust.
The Inns of Chancery, which have been occupied principally by solicitors, have undergone a still more adverse fate. They exer- cise no educational functions whatever. The model specimen of this class of Inn is Lyon's Inn ; in which there appear to be no officers. There has been such a payment to the Inner Temple for a reader, " but the reader burlesqued the thing so greatly that they were disgusted and never asked for another reader" ; at least
this is the account of Mr. Timothy Tyrrell, one of "the Ancients" of the Inn, who has heard his father say so, and thinks that he himself recollects a reader when a boy. Mr. Tyrrell hardly knows what he is himself. " Who assumes to deal with the property ? " asked the Commissioners : " Those individuals," answered Mr. Tyrrell, "who are Ancients ; in fact, there are only two of us left now." " Is every person an Ancient who has private chambers ? " "No; I imagine that there were originally members independent of the Ancients. There are only two of us left now." "Two mem- bers," asked the Commissioners, " or two Ancients ? " " Two mem- bers," answers Mr. Tyrrell, "who are the two Ancients." Mr. Tyrrell's father laid out a good deal of money upon the property, and somehow or other the Inn appears to have lapsed into a pri- vate holding in the hands of these "old Ancients," useless to "the new moderns."
Amongst the objections to a more stringent examination, some, like Sir Fitzroy Kelly, apprehend that it will exclude country gentlemen and persons of position, who now seek the Inns of Court either as schools to learn something of justice business or legislation, or for the sake of an honorary title reflecting some of the distinction which they receive. The Commissioners do not sanction this fear. They observe, justly, that men of family go to the Universities and undertake great labour for the sake of ob- taining degrees ; and they expect, with equal justice, that a higher value given to the degrees in law would equally attract the best members of the noble and gentle families.
The expectation that a more systematic education will neces- sarily produce a higher class of lawyers is not so certain. If we have few lawyers of great distinction amongst us at present, we may perhaps attribute the degeneracy, not to the want of teaching, which certainly existed at former periods, but to the " fast" cus- toms of our days. In New South Wales they adopted a very summary plan to test competency—they passed a local act, substi- tuting an examination for a voyage to England : no questions were asked as to what the young man had been, but he produced certificate of moral character, " was examined in classics and mathematics, and something of the kind, and then in his law." This, says Mr. Lowe, has worked very satisfactorily. But Mr. George W. Hastings denies the satisfaction, and tells a harrowing story in disproof.
"I know a case where a man is positively an Inspector of Police, and is a barrister. He was in the Police force when called, and is so still. The Sessions Mess of the county in which be was stationed sent up a requisition to the Benohers of Gray's Inn, begging them not to call him; and stating as a resaon, that they did not believe he was going to practise as a barrister ; and they thought it was a degradation to them for a man to be able to oall them his learned friends who was absolutely in a blue coat with bright but- tons. The Benchers never sent us any,answer to the requisition, but they called hint to the bar notwithstanding." The greatest diversities exist in various countries as to the di- vision of the profession. In the United States, which has pro- duced eminent lawyers, there is no division at all ; all lawyers are " attorneys ": frequently two join in partnership, the one to prac- tise as an attorney, the other as an advocate. In Austria, there is no such division, but there is a division unknown to us : the at- torney and barrister are the same thing, but the judge is a separate profession. The candidate for the judicial bench is not a barrister, but is a student for the judgeship : his studies occupy about eight years, and he receives a Government appointment as a Government officer. The Austrian judge appears to be not unlike our make- shift judges in India ; certainly with small means except force of personal character for being independent of the Crown. On the whole, the evidence tends to cast great doubts on any certain effect to be produced by exclusive regulations. So far as enabling rules go—that is, rules affixed to enjoyment of conve- niences offered by the Inns of Court, or to certificates guaranteeing the competency of the candidate for serving a client—there appears to be no valid objection. There is no objection to the offering of a sound and sufficient education. But, evidently, the high fees, and the barriers intended to keep out those who are not " gentlemen,' fail to keep out rogues and profligates, who are bred in all ranks ; while they do not fail to exclude young men of good character and intellect with very small means. The present tendency is to re- duce the level of these barriers, and at the same time to give mere for the money ; a very good. tendency.