Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - Mode and Expense of Entering the Professions - (1) The Bar

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Volume 4




A CALL to the bar is at once the easiest as well as the most difficult thing to be accomplished in the world, for though a man can qualify for a call to the bar by merely eating some dinners and passing examinations, yet the fees attendant thereon are so heavy and numerous that to persons of limited income the bar is an impossible profession. Besides which, when a man is fairly called, it is ten to one that business will come to him before he has been in the profession four years, during which time he must have means not only sufficient to support himself, but also to enable him to travel his circuit, which cannot be done on much less than £ 100 a year.
    In order to illustrate our proposition, we intend to show and explain the various methods by which persons can qualify for a call to the bar, and also the expenses and fees incident thereto.
    The first thing to be done is for the student to enter his name on the books of one of the Inns of Court, of which there are four, namely, the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and Gray's Inn.
    To enable a man to be admitted as a student at any of the four Inns, without passing a preliminary examination, he must have passed a public examination at any of the universities within the British dominions It is not necessary that he should have taken his degree ; the fact of his having passed his "little-go" is sufficient to qualify him for entrance, and enable him to dispense with the infliction of a preliminary examination. Should, however, the intending student not be a University man, he will have to pass a short and easy examination in the English and Latin languages, and also have some questions asked him in English history. This examination is, however, exceedingly easy, so much so that it almost resolves itself into a mere form. Besides this, however, he must sign a paper, which runs to this effect
        "I , --- of ---, aged 21, the eldest son of ---,  of ---, in the county of --- , do hereby declare that I am desirous of being admitted a student of the Honourable Society of ---, for the purpose of being called to the bar, or of practising under the bar, and that I will not, either directly or indirectly, apply for or take out any certificate to practise, directly or indirectly, as a special pleader, or conveyancer, or draftsman in Equity, without the special permission of the Master of the Bench of the said Society. And I do hereby further declare, that I am not an attorney-at-law, solicitor, a writer to the Signet, a writer of the Scotch Court, a proctor, a notary public, a clerk in Chancery, a Parliamentary agent, an agent in any court, original or appellate, a clerk to any justice of the peace, nor do I act, directly or indirectly, in any such capacity, or in the capacity of clerk of or to any of the persons above described, or as clerk of or to any barrister, conveyancer, special pleader, or Equity draftsman, or of or to any officer in any Court of Law or Equity."
    This document must be signed by the person desiring to be admitted as a student, and also by two barristers, who certify to their belief in the respectability of the applicant; they may belong to any Inn of Court, and it is not by any means necessary that they should belong to the same Inn as that to which the person for whom they sign is about to belong. Further, it must be approved and signed by the Treasurer, or in his absence, by two benchers of the Inn. After this, certain fees must be paid, which are run up, by a process known only to those conversant with the law and lawyers, to a sum amounting in all to about £ 37. This includes the readers' fee of five guineas, in consideration of which a ticket is presented to the now admitted student, which admits him free to all the public lectures that are given by. the readers. Non-university men must deposit a sum of £ 100, the surplus of which, if any, after payment of fees, will be handed over to him when he is called.
    Having now entered our student at one of the Inns, let us see how he can best spend his time during the three years which must elapse before he can be called to the bar. In the first place, he must keep his twelve terms, which must be done by eating dinners in the hall of the Inn to which he belongs. If he is a member of any of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, London, Durham, the Queen's University in Ireland, St. Andrew's, Aberdeen, Glasgow, or Edinburgh, he need only eat three in a term; but if he is a non-university man, or, being one, has taken his name off the books, and by so doing has ceased to be a member of one, he must eat six. The regulations as to dinner differ in the various Inns. In the Inner Temple they charge a guinea a term, for six dinners, and students can for that money eat either three or six, as they please; but they make no reduction in the fee if the smaller number of dinners are eaten. At this Inn the dinner hour is half-past five. At the other Inns the case is somewhat different - two shillings a dinner is the amount demanded, and a student is charged no more than the amount due for the dinners actually eaten. The Middle Temple men dine at six, and Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn at the same hour as the Inner Temple. Every student is supplied with a gown - for the use of which, of course, he has to pay - in which he has to dine; and before entering the hall he must give his name to a clerk, who will enter it in a book. The dinner is fair, but nothing extraordinary; fish or soup, joints or fowls, pudding, cheese, and as much beer as you like. Every four students are portioned off into a mess, for which a bottle of wine is provided.
    But the mere fact of his having kept his terms will not of itself entitle a student to his call to the bar. He must have performed besides one of three conditions-that is to say, he must either have attended during one whole year the lectures and private classes of two of the readers, or have been a pupil during one whole year, or periods equal to a year, in the chambers of some barrister, certified special pleader, conveyancer, or draftsman in Equity, or two or more of such persons; or have satisfactorily passed a public examination.
    The first of these ways is now confined to students admitted before 1864, and the second to students admitted before 1872; so that for all fresh students the only method now available is that of public examination, It is still advisable, however, in order to gain some practical knowledge of the profession while studying the theory, to read with men already in good practice, avoiding those who have little but routine work and many pupils, and rather choosing those with plenty of work and few pupils, using the advice of any professional friends in this matter as far as possible.
    The public examinations, which henceforth form the avenue of admission to the profession, are under the control of the Council of Legal Education. The educational year consists of three terms, and every student on admission pays a fee of five guineas, which franks him to all the lectures of all the professors. Attendance is not compulsory, but of course a student who means work will make the most of all advantages. He will also probably attend the private classes of at least some of the professors, the usual fee for which is five guineas per annum, and which very much assist in reading up for the examinations. The subjects are as follows: (1) Jurisprudence, including International Law, public and private; (2) Roman Civil Law; (3) Constitutional Law and Legal History; (4) Common Law; (5) Equity; (6) Law of Real and Personal Property; (7) Criminal Law. To receive a certificate of fitness entitling to call, the student must [-48-] pass in at least Roman Civil Law, Law of Real and Personal Property, Common Law, and Equity. He may pass in Roman Civil Law after keeping four terms, but cannot be examined further for his call till he has kept nine terms. A degree in law granted by any British University may be accepted for any subjects without further examination, except Common Law and Equity.
    Four examinations are held yearly, one early enough before each Law Term for the students to receive the necessary certificates for that term. The chief examinations are those before Hilary and Trinity Terms, as studentships and honours are then awarded. To pass in honours is very advantageous, as the Inn of the student so far fortunate may dispense with not more than two of the remaining terms (if any) before he can be called; and at every call those students who have obtained honours take rank in seniority over all other students called the same day.
    There are six studentships for two years and six for one year of one hundred guineas each, open to all students of a certain standing in regard to the number of terms kept ; two studentships of each class being awarded at every examination before the two terms mentioned. In each group of subjects are also awarded four prizes of £ 50, £ 25, £ 15, and £ 10 respectively at the examination in December on the subjects of the professors' lectures also two prizes of £ 70 and £ 30 for the highest aggregate marks in any two subjects. These prizes are not open to winners of studentships, and candidates for them must have attended at least two-thirds of the lectures for the year in the subjects competed in, no candidate being allowed to compete in more than two subjects, or to take more than one prize. Besides these general prizes, each Inn of Court has valuable scholarships of its own; s that a really considerable amount of public money is at the service of the most able and deserving students.
    We will suppose now that our student has qualified for his call to the bar, and has kept his terms. His name and description must, before he can be called, be posted up or "screened" in the Hall, Benchers' Room, and Secretary's or Treasurer's Office of his Inn. He will also have to give notice or petition at the Treasurer's office, according to regulations slightly differing at each Inn, of his intention. At Lincoln's Inn the candidate has to sign a declaration that he is not in trade, and must have been twice "introduced" by the steward to bar table after dinner, once in the year of admission, and the other within a twelvemonth of his call. Here the fees on call are £ 94, with any arrears of commons and dues. At the Middle Temple the fees on call are £ 99 10s.; at the Inner Temple, £ 94 9s. 6d.; at Gray's Inn, only £ 77 2s. 4d. Besides these fees in cash, at most Inns the student has to give bonds jointly with one or two householders for sums varying from £ 50 to £ 100.
    Most of the Inns have regulations dispensing with the usual deposit of £ 100, and giving other privileges, to members of recognised Universities who have kept a certain number of terms at such University, and who have taken a degree before being called to the bar. And the Inns or Council of Legal Education have certain powers of dispensing with the ordinary conditions as here set forth, in any very special cases, as they may see fit. But the design of all the recent regulations, and the abolition of the former alternative methods of qualifying, has been to substitute real education and hard work for purely honorary qualifications.
    All this being attended to, the student must be introduced to a bencher of his Inn, who will nominate him a fit and proper person to be called to the bar. If a man intends to practise under the bar, he must take out a certificate to enable him to do so. This involves the payment of less fees, and is done by men who intend to practise as special pleaders. The principal distinction between them and barristers is, that whereas the latter cannot take less than a guinea fee, special pleaders can have any smaller sum marked on their briefs.
    The mode of calling is pretty much the same in all the Inns, only differing in a few trifling particulars. The call-night is on the 16th of each term, unless it should happen to be Sunday, when it is the following Monday. On that night, after dinner, the students about to be called are summoned to the common room, where they are ranged up against the wall in a row, and are subjected to the scrutiny of the benchers for a few minutes, after which a solemn person advances, and inquires of each student what wine he would prefer, and if the student is wise he will answer, "Madeira." Every student is then provided with a glass filled with the wine of his choice, and awaits the result. A grave and elderly bencher then rises and proposes the health of the gentlemen who are about to be called to the bar, and informs them, amongst other things, that he is certain from what he has seen of them that they will individually be an honour and an ornament to the noble profession to which they are about to belong. He then sits down; the gentlemen about to be called to the bar drink off the contents of their glasses, and the senior student returns thanks in a neat and appropriate speech. Then a few forms are gone through, and the gentlemen - students no longer - are at last fairly called to the bar.

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source: Cassells Household Guide, c.1880s