§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
in rising to move the following Resolutions:—
said: *Sir, I hope the House will believe that I am not influenced by any mere professional prepossession or prejudice when I speak of the law of this country as a matter of the most vital importance to all our institutions and all our interests, and when I assert that a sound system of education in the law is a subject most worthy of the attention of this House. And, certainly, when it is remembered how long it is since this House gave its attention to that subject, and how great the defects of the existing system are, it is rather a cause of surprise that the matter should have been left unsettled until now, than that I should be bringing it to the notice of the House at the present moment. What is the true character of the prevailing system of legal education in England? When the high reputation and attainments of the many great men who have adorned the profession are considered, when the great power which the profession has always exercised in the State is borne in mind, together with the important duties which its members are called upon to discharge, it might naturally be supposed that the system of legal education which has produced such men must in itself be of a very excellent kind. And, yet, if there is one point upon which public opinion may be said to be almost unanimous, it is that legal education is, and has long been, in a very unsatisfactory condition. Ages ago Chief Justices spoke of our Inns of Court as a legal University, and not only was there a strong desire to establish in them an efficient school of law, but they were provided with large resources and means, intended to produce great results. The whole of that system has fallen into a state of decay, and within the recollection of those now living it is no untrue description of our law studies to say that they have 1484 been unscientific, unsystematic, desultory, and empirical. A young man comes from school or from the University—or wherever else he has received his general education—well prepared, I will suppose, and grounded in general elementary knowledge. He then endeavours to qualify himself for the legal profession by seeing practice—a very good thing in its way, if accompanied by the acquirement of a solid, scientific, and systematic knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence and the history of the law. Instead of that, however, no broad, no scientific foundation is laid. He studies text-books, wades through undigested and often questionable decisions of the present day and of former days, as they are reported in the voluminous books of cases; he goes into the chambers of a a conveyancer, and afterwards of an Equity draftsman or a special pleader, with a view to see how business is done. He gets what advice he can from his much-occupied tutor, or from the friends he makes in the profession, or in the pupil-room; and thus picks up such elementary knowledge of law as he can put together. He then commences practice, and learns the business of his profession really and truly by practising, more than by anything else, and after he begins to build up the superstructure in this way he has very little time to amend or enlarge his foundation. Now, let not the House suppose that this is a matter which concerns those only who practice the law. It is very important to the country that those who practice the law should have a good scientific knowledge, because, although it may be true that men do not succeed in business unless they prove themselves competent to transact it, yet, on the other hand, they would transact it better, as individuals and as a class, in proportion to the depth and solidity of their acquirements; and not only would that be the case with the most eminent members of the profession, but it would be so, in an even more important degree, with those whose performances are less under the public eye, both among barristers and solicitors. There can be no doubt that great benefit would arise in the practice of all branches of the law from an improvement in the system of study. But the evil does not stop there. The want of this science, of this foundation, of this method, is felt everywhere. The 1485 great and notorious defects of form and consistency in our legislation are, in a large measure, the result of law not being studied in England as a science; and, so far from there being any promise of amendment in this respect, under the present system, there is every prospect of matters becoming worse. Our judicature again suffers greatly: for as Judges are multiplied in the Superior Courts, and local Courts are established throughout the country—a multiplication which is absolutely necessary for the due administration of justice — that multiplication itself tends more and more to bring into prominence the want of governing principles, the incoherent character of our jurisprudence. With the multiplication of Judges you get constantly diverging views, a continually increasing variety of precedents, and increasing uncertainty in their application. There are other considerations, in addition to those I have mentioned. When we consider how many important offices of the State, requiring legal knowledge and legal habits and methods, are confided to barristers of a certain standing, it is plainly of great importance that a system of education should be established which may enable the members of the class from which these appointments are made, to acquire a good and sound general knowledge of the law, and, at the same time, afford to the public some guarantee of the possession of that knowledge by those on whom the appointments are conferred. Again, the whole of the magistracy throughout the country, paid and unpaid, though not entirely recruited from the class of barristers, is at all events selected from a class to whom it would be of great importance to have afforded them the means of acquiring sound instruction in the law. Would it not be of immense advantage, too, to those who come here to make laws, to have the opportunity of acquiring such knowledge before undertaking the duties which we are here called upon to discharge? And I may say that, with regard to all men of business throughout the country—to our merchants, to the non-professional classes as well as the professional, it would be of great value and importance if a good school of law were established, where every man who wished to be instructed in the elementary knowledge of the laws of his country could obtain 1486 that instruction in a sound and scientific form. But, further, we must remember that we are the centre from which radiates law to other great regions of the earth. In the colonies and in the East Indies we undertake the administration of the law, and we send out a continual supply of Judges and barristers to carry on the traditions, the knowledge, and practice of our law in those remote possessions. Is it not of the greatest importance that we should do our best to ensure the proper qualification of those whom we send? But, perhaps, I ought to apologize for having dwelt so long upon the importance and the necessity of an alteration in the present system, because it is not recently—it is as long ago as 1846—that this House directed its attention to that subject. A Select Committee was then appointed, one of its Members being, if I recollect rightly, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. S. Walpole). That Committee made a Report from which I will take the liberty of reading a few passages—passages which, with very little qualification, would represent the state of things now, as they represented the state of things at that time. The Committee say—
- "1. That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that a General School of Law should be established in the Metropolis, in the government of which the different brunches of the legal profession in England may be suitably represented; and that, after the establishment thereof, no person should be admitted to practise in any branch of the legal profession, either at or below the Bar, or as an attorney or solicitor in England, without a certificate of proficiency in the study of Law, granted after proper examinations by such General School of Law.
- "2. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to take into consideration the
1483 expediency of establishing and incorporating under Her Majesty's Royal Charter, a General School of Law in the Metropolis, in the government of which the different branches of the legal profession in England may be suitably represented; and assuring Her Majesty that if it shall appear to Her Majesty to be expedient to provide by such Charter that, after the time when such General School shall be fully established, no person shall be admitted to practise in any branch of the legal profession, either at or below the Bar, or as an attorney or solicitor in England, without a certificate of proficiency in the study of the Law, granted after proper examinations by such General School of Law, this House will be prepared to concur in such legislation as may be requisite to enable Her Majesty so to do."That the present state of legal education in England and Ireland, in reference to the classes, professional and non-professional, concerned, to the extent and nature of the studies pursued, the time employed, and the facility with which instruction may be obtained, is extremely unsatisfactory and incomplete, and exhibits a striking contrast and inferiority to such education, provided as it is with ample means and a judicious system for their application, at present in operation in all the more civilized States in Europe and America.They add—That it may be asserted as a general fact, to which there are very few exceptions, that the student, professional and unprofessional, is left almost solely to his own individual exertions, industry and opportunities; and that no legal education worthy of the name is at this moment to be had in either England or Ireland.That was written in 1846; and though there has been some improvement since, that improvement has not been of a very important or extensive character. The Committee go on to say—That, among the consequences of this want of scientific legal education, we are altogether deprived of a most important class, the legists or jurists of the Continent—men who, unembarrassed by the small practical interests of their profession, are enabled to apply themselves exclusively to law as to a science, and to claim by their 1487 writings and decisions the reverence of their profession not in one country only, but in all where such laws are administered.I will also mention one other just and important observation which was made by that Committee—That a system of legal education, to be of general advantage, must comprehend and meet the wants, not only of the professional, but also of the unprofessional student.It ought to be open to all the country, and not be confined merely to those who are desirous of practising the law. As a remedy for these evils, the Committee recommended that the Inns of Court should be united into one body, so as toForm for all purposes of instruction a sort of aggregate of colleges, or, in other words, a species of Law University.I referred just now, among other considerations, to those connected with India and our colonies; and with the permission of the House, I should like to read an extract from a letter which I have received from an eminent Indian Judge, who takes a warm interest in this subject. The writer is Mr. Justice Markby, one of the Judges of the High Court at Calcutta; he says, "with the greatest confidence," thatThe want expressed by the movement is already felt in every part of India. It is through the administration of the law that England has her strongest hold on India. It is at this point that she has most completely broken down those barriers which in other matters separate us so widely from our Indian fellow-subjects.He then refers to the appointment of Native Judges, both in the Mofussil, and, in four instances, as members of the High Court itself; and adds—In all parts of the country a Native Bar is springing up. I am satisfied that this desirable state of things is due, in a great measure, to the link which has been formed between England and India by the Bar; and I look with the greatest satisfaction at the prospect, that this link will be still further strengthened by the growing habit of Hindoos and Mahometans to resort to England for the purpose of studying law at the Inns of Court. But can anyone say that they find there what they have a right to expect? Surely they ought to find a thorough and complete system of education. If this is desirable for ourselves, much more is it desirable for a Native of India. A Native of India requires, even more than an Englishman, some systematic instruction, before he attempts to acquire the art to practise. Indeed, I do not hesitate to say, that the most conspicuous failures of Native lawyers in India have arisen entirely from the want of this preliminary instruction …… It seems to me, therefore, not too much to say that the question which has been mooted is one of Imperial concern.1488 It will be remembered that one of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee of 1846 was, that the four Inns of Court should be brought together and organized, so as to form for all purposes of instruction a sort of aggregate of colleges, or, in other words, a species of Law University; and they advised, amongst other things, that there should be admitted to some, at least, of the lectures to be given in the Inns of Court, when so organized, students intended to follow the profession of attorneys and solicitors. I mention that to show that it was seen, even then, that it would not be desirable, in the early stage of legal education at all events, to draw any absolute line of separation between those who were intended for different branches of the profession; but that the advantages which would result from the proposed change ought to be open to till who might be able and willing to profit by them. That Report was not productive of any immediate effect; but the subject did not entirely go to sleep; for in 1851, I think, the Inns of Court began to bestir themselves, and set on foot that system of assistance to legal education, of the results and character of which I will presently give the House some account. In 1855 a Royal Commission, which had been appointed in the year before, with the limited object of inquiring into the Inns of Court and Chancery, and which included the present Lord Chancellor, who was its Chairman, Lord Westbury, Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, Sir John Taylor Coleridge, Sir Henry Keating, Sir John Shaw Lefevre, and other eminent persons, adverted in forcible language to the evils which I have mentioned. They took the evidence of many witnesses of great experience; and in the result they recommended that a University should be constituted, with a power of conferring degrees in law, and with a Chancellor and a Senate to be elected in certain proportions by the Inns of Court; saying—We deem it advisable that there shall be established a preliminary examination for admission to the Inns of Court of persons who have not taken a University degree, and that there shall be examinations, the passing of which shall be requisite for the call to the Bar; and that the four Inns of Court shall be united in one University for the purpose of these examinations, and of conferring degrees.1489 I will now give the House some account of what has been done by the Inns of Court. As I said, it was in 1851 that the scheme began, of which the ultimate result was the establishment of the present "Council of Legal Education," a body representing, and receiving pecuniary assistance from, the four Inns of Court. The operations of that Council have hitherto been limited to affording opportunities of improvement, by means of lectures given by readers in different branches of law, and of voluntary examinations to those students who are willing to profit by them. Down to the present time it has continued to be possible for anyone to be admitted to the Bar, without any test to ascertain whether he possesses any legal knowledge. Eating a certain number of dinners, and attending for a year in a barristers's chambers, or attending for one year a prescribed course of lectures, is all that has been required; the alternative being at the same time offered of passing an examination which, being perfectly optional, very few have chosen to go through. Five lectureships in the whole have been established in different branches of law, with the results, in figures, which I will proceed to give. By the accounts for the year preceding the 10th of January, 1871, it appears that the contributions of the four societies, including what they gave for the expenses of the establishment, amounted to £1,440; the students' fees for public lectures amounted to £3,174; and the students' fees for private lectures to £556. These figures are sufficient to show that such a system as that which I desire to see established might easily be made capable of supporting itself. And now with respect to the students. The number of attendances of students on the several courses of public lectures during the same year was 376; but here I ought to mention that I do not think these figures mean that 376 individual students attended lectures during the year, because probably in many cases the same person attended more than one course of lectures, and is counted for each course. The number, therefore, attending the lectures, in the aggregate, was 376, subject to that deduction. Subject to a like deduction, there were 101 students who attended the private lectures, and 25 who attended the lectures on Indian law. Only 58 1490 offered themselves for the general examination, and 30 for the voluntary examination for exhibitions; of whom again, several must have been counted more than once, if—as is most probable—the same students were examined in several different subjects. These figures represent, down to the present time, the numerical results of the present system. With regard to the instruction itself, and the profit to be derived from it, the narrowness of the system has an unavoidable tendency to confine the advantages it is calculated to confer within a very limited range. The attendance is not sufficiently numerous, nor are the tests of proficiency sufficiently substantial to stimulate to the utmost the energies of either teachers or pupils. I am afraid that, with the exception of a few distinguished students, the thing has worked in a languid, imperfect manner, because the scheme was not comprehensive or bold enough to produce serious and important effects; and I need scarcely add that the absence of a compulsory test of qualification before the call to the Bar has in itself been fatal to its success. In that state of things, a Committee of gentlemen determined last year that it should not be their fault if something better was not attempted. And accordingly many members of the Bar, and many solicitors and attorneys who took an interest in the matter, united themselves into a society called the Legal Education Association. This association proposed to place the general course of studies and the examinations preliminary to and requisite for admission to the practice of the law, in all its branches, under the management and responsibility of a legal University, to be incorporated in London; to make the passing of suitable examinations in this University—or of equivalent examinations in the legal faculty of some other University of the United Kingdom—indispensable to the admission of students to the practice of the Bar, or to practice as special pleaders, certificated conveyancers, attorneys, or solicitors; and, lastly, to offer the benefits of the course of study and examinations to be afforded by the University to all classes of students who may desire to take advantage of them, whether intending or not intending to follow the legal profession in any of its branches, and whether members or not of any of 1491 the Inns of Court. They also considered it expedient that the proposed University should be so constituted as to give a due share of representation in its government to all branches of the legal profession; and they desired to do this, as far as possible, in co-operation with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and London, with the Inns of Court, and with the different law societies representing the attorneys and solicitors throughout the kingdom. And now I would state how these proposals have hitherto fared. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge both appointed Committees with a view to friendly communication with this association. A great legal authority at Oxford has authorized me to state that that University has lately effected a complete reconstruction of its machinery for teaching and examining in law and jurisprudence, with the express object of having it ready to fit in with any comprehensive organization of legal education which may be established, either by the Inns of Court or by any body external to them. And the Petition from the members of the Bar, which I have presented to-day, is signed by Sir Henry Maine, Corpus Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford, perhaps the most eminent of our living jurists; by Mr. Montagu Bernard, Professor of International Law, who lately acted as one of the British Commissioners in negotiating the Treaty of Washington; by Mr. Bryce, Regius Professor of Civil Law, and by Mr. Kenelm Digby, Vinerian Reader of Law at Oxford; showing most distinctly, that these gentlemen, who represent, as well as any who could be named, the scientific element of jurisprudence in this country at the present day, take an active interest in the proposals which I am now submitting to the House. At Cambridge, also, a similar disposition has been shown; on the 7th of March last the Senate of the University appointed a syndicate to confer with the Legal Education Association; and the Petition to which I just now referred bears the signature of Dr. Abdy, the Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge. The University of London, by its constituted authorities, has also expressed approval of the general views and principles of the association; subject, however, to objections which they have made to the creation of a new University, 1492 strictly and technically so-called, with power to give degrees in law. That part of the proposal is not by any means of its essence. In consequence of that objection, and to avoid, upon the present occasion, airy unnecessary cause of difference, I have altered the terms of the Notice which I had given by omitting the word "University," which might seem to have prejudged that question, which I did not intend to do. But, with regard to the substance of the plan, the University of London has expressed its approval, and I do not doubt its willingness to co-operate. I may state, moreover, that Mr. Sheldon Amos, the Professor of Jurisprudence at University College, London, has signed the Petition which I have presented to-day. We have also had a very friendly communication from the University of Edinburgh, which shows that their experience is not unfavourable to the principles of the plan; and from that communication I wish to read one passage, which bears upon the most controverted point in the scheme to which I am now calling the attention of the House. The passage to which I refer is as follows:—It may not be uninteresting to the association to mention that, in the teaching of the (Scottish) Universities there has never been known any distinction between students intended for different branches of the legal profession. All sit on the same benches, listen to the same lectures, and submit to the same University examinations; nor has it ever been suggested that this practice has been attended with any evil results.Now, I come to the reception which these proposals have met with from the different legal bodies in England—and, in the first place, I may perhaps be permitted to mention that many very eminent men, including the Lord Chancellor, and not less than 11 of the other Judges in the Superior Courts of Law and Equity, have declared, and still authorize me to declare, their general approval of the scheme — and to these I am permitted to add, amongst other distinguished names, those of Sir William Erle, lately Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; Sir John Taylor Coleridge, who was one of the Commissioners of 1854; and Sir Joseph Napier, formerly Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who moved for the appointment of that Commission in this House. These gentlemen, and others whom I would rather leave to speak for themselves in this or "another place," have expressed a very 1493 warm interest in the accomplishment of the object which we have in view—and the Petition from the Bar, to which I have already more than once referred, has received, within a very short space of time, nearly 400 signatures—among which are those of 18 Queen's Counsel. With regard to the reception which the plan has met with from the different organs of the profession, if I may so term them, I will first allude to the action taken by the Incorporated Law Society. The Incorporated Law Society met in May last, and passed the following resolution, in accordance with which, they have also addressed a Petition to this House, which I presented this evening:—That the Society approves generally of the proposals of the Legal Education Association for a University or School of Law, and is willing to co-operate with the Association on the footing: 1. That all the several branches of legal study will be open to all who may become students, without distinction or classification, leaving them to determine with which branch of the profession they will ultimately connect themselves:—That the course of instruction of all members of the University intending to be barristers shall not be distinct and separate from the course of instruction of those intending to be attorneys or solicitors:—That an examination by the proposed University or School shall be eqully compulsory on both branches; and, that no preponderance be be given to the Bar, or to attorneys and solicitors on the Governing Body.It is only due to the Incorporated Law Society to mention that they were the first to establish an effective system of instruction by lectures, and of compulsory examinations before admission to practice, for the branch of the profession which they so worthily represent; and that their efforts have been attended with excellent results. From the Metropolitan and Provincial Law Association we also received a similar adherence to our general views and principles; as also from the Incorporated Law Societies of Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Plymouth, and other important towns, from several of which I have to-night presented Petitions. I come now to the views of the Inns of Court. The Inns of Court, in consequence of communications made to them on behalf of the Association, appointed Committees to meet together, and to confer upon the subject; and they have since adopted resolutions, which, if some of them appear to me to fall short of the best means of accomplishing the object, 1494 are nevertheless important steps in the direction in which I wish to move. In the first place, a Committee appointed by Gray's Inn—always a liberal society—in November last adopted two of our main principles, that of a general school of law, and that of a mixed, and not exclusive, system of preliminary education. They recommended—That there should be a legal University, or some one body with united action, to provide means for the education of students for the legal profession; with power to prescribe the educational qualification which shall be required from students on their admission as students, and on their being called to the Bar, or admitted as attorneys.They were also of opinion—That such body should not be formed of the four Inns of Court exclusively; but that no other body should be associated with the four Inns, save and except the Incorporated Law Society.The Committee appointed by the Middle Temple—a society of whose early, constant, and zealous efforts, and large and enlightened views in the cause of legal education, it is impossible to speak too highly—have declared their substantial concurrence in all the principles of our scheme. They recommended—That there should be a legal University to superintend and control the education of students for the profession of the law, consisting of such bodies or members as are contemplated by the Council of the Legal Education Association;" and "That passing such examination as may be established in that behalf by the legal University he recommended as one of the qualifications for admission to the Bar, and for practice as attorneys and solicitors.From the Inner Temple, and Lincoln's Inn, we have not met with an equal degree of concurrence. Both these societies appear to be at present of opinion that it is desirable to keep the education for the Bar entirely separate, and to retain in the Inns of Court the whole of the educational power which they now possess. But in other respects they also are prepared to move forward. The Committee of the Inner Temple passed the following resolution:—That there should be one body, with united action, to superintend and control the education of students for the Bar, and a compulsory examination to ascertain that they are properly qualified before being called to the Bar. That such one body should be formed exclusively of certain persons being members of one of the four Inns of Court, appointed by such Inns respectively; and that such body should be endowed by the Inns of Court with sufficient funds for the foundation of legal professorships.1495 In January last the Bench of the Inner Temple repeated their adherence to the views thus laid down. I come now to Lincoln's Inn. So far as relates to the formation of a legal University, the principle of the proposal which I am advocating was approved by Lincoln's Inn as long ago as April, 1863, when, upon the Motion of Sir Hugh Cairns (now Lord Cairns), the following resolution was agreed to:—Resolved—That in the opinion of this Bench the creation of a legal University, to which the various Inns of Court might be affiliated, and through which legal degrees might be conferred, and discipline exercised, would be desirable.No action followed upon that resolution; and I regret to say, that, in one respect, that society appears to have since receded from the position which it then took up; having now adopted the resolutions lately passed by the Joint Committee of the four Inns of Court, which seems to contemplate that the constitution, as well as the powers, of these societies ought to undergo no change. In another direction, however, they have advanced; and, if the movement I am advocating should have no further result, the action lately taken by all the Inns of Court, with regard to the requirement henceforth of compulsory examinations before admission to the Bar, will at all events be sufficient to show that it has not been without good effect. In the resolutions arrived at by a majority of the Joint Committee of the four Inns of Court (and which may be taken to represent the views at present prevailing among the Benchers of the Inner Temple and Lincoln's Inn), they say—That it is not desirable that the education of students for the Bar, and the education of the articled clerks of solicitors and attorneys, should be under one joint system of management. That there should be a compulsory examination of students for the Bar before they are called to the Bar, or if they are allowed to practice under the Bar; and that the Inns of Court should establish such an examination; and that such examination be carried into effect under the direction and through the instrumentality of the Council of Legal Education; under amended regulations, the Council being increased in number and authority.I cannot help feeling some satisfaction at the extent to which the resolutions of all the four Inns of Court agree with the proposals which I am now making to the House. They all appear to agree, or to have at one time or another agreed, that one united body with control over 1496 the whole subject ought to be established; and, secondly, they all now come to the conclusion that everyone ought to pass a real bonâ fide examination before being admitted to practice at the Bar. Such an examination has existed for attorneys and solicitors since 1835; and now at last, in 1871, we have arrived at the point of having the necessity for such an examination in the case of the Bar universally conceded. But the benefit of that concession is clogged, in the case of two of the four societies, commanding a majority (though not a large one) in the Joint Committee, with the endeavour to keep the future school of legal education entirely under their own management, and to reserve it for the exclusive and separate use of students for the Bar. Now, I must ask the House to permit me, as briefly as I can, to give my reasons for being unable to agree with either of these views. I look upon these as questions of principle, and therefore I have embodied the principles for which I contend on both these points in the terms of my Motion, while not desiring to introduce any matters which may appropriately be called matters of detail. What pretence is there for the claim of the Inns of Court to retain this exclusive control and management, now that the country at large is moving in the matter, after they have so long failed in performing the duties for the sake of which, I take the liberty of saying, they originally existed? It appears to me that they have no just right to claim the exclusive control and mangement of the future system. No one feels greater respect—no one has more reason than I have to feel respect for the gentlemen at the head of those societies—gentlemen who adorn the profession to which they belong. But, after all, the societies themselves are but ropes of sand. They are bodies held together principally by dinners, by occasional councils, and by other formal and occasional acts. Their governing members are numerous, and many of them are very distinguished men; but those who are most distinguished can hardly, as a general rule, take the most active share in their government. For, in proportion as men are actively employed in the business of the profession, they have less leisure to take a regular or constant or effective part in the management of these societies. The consequence is, that 1497 they resemble clubs more than public bodies; and not even clubs of such a kind as to unite their members in any very close bonds of mutual association. If they have not, in times past, though possessed of large pecuniary resources, though actuated by the best intentions in the world, and though presided over by men of the most honourable character, shown themselves equal to dealing with this subject, I take it to be for the reasons I have mentioned, and because they have no corporate character, no legal organization, no acknowledged public trust or public responsibility. Now, therefore, that the interest of the public has been aroused, and that there is a general desire to see a powerful organization established upon larger and broader views, I cannot recognize the claims of these societies to keep the whole matter any longer in their hands. Whom do the Governing Bodies of the Inns of Court really represent? They do not even represent the Bar. They are self-elected. Almost every gentleman who is appointed a Queen's Counsel becomes, nearly as a matter of course, a a Bencher of his own Inn of Court; and from the number of Queen's Counsel—in Lincoln's Inn particularly, however, much the Benchers themselves might desire it, there is no room for the admission of anyone else. Consequently, no stuff gownsmen, as they are called, have within my recollection been admitted to that body in Lincoln's Inn; the whole management is practically confided to those who can find leisure to undertake it among that body of gentlemen, who, either through success in business or otherwise by the favour of the Crown, have arrived at rank in their profession. The other Inns of Court—though some of them are enabled to form Benches of a less exclusive character—are constituted much in the same way. There is, at all events, no representation of the Bar, properly so called, in the government of any of those societies. But I do not stop there. I see another defect in the scheme which the Joint Committee have advocated. The objects at which they aim are too exclusively professional. They do not wish to see any scheme adopted by which person should be invited to study law in the same school, without reference to the question whether they want or not to become barristers, or attorneys, or 1498 solicitors. This brings me to the last point of all. After all, the great objection urged against the scheme which I am now advocating is the alarming idea as to the results of students for the Bar being educated under the same system as those who are to become attorneys and solicitors. It seems to me not at all for the interests of the Bar or of the solicitors to draw needlessly or prematurely, before the time of admission to practice, the line existing between the two branches of the profession. The real truth is, that it is for the interest of the county that, the attorneys and solicitors should have access to the best preparatory system of education you can give them, just as much as that such an opportunity should be afforded to those who are studying for the Bar. They comprehend among them men of high general, attainments, and of the most honourable character. There is, and there has at all times been, a large number of barristers and Judges, whose fathers, fathers-in-law, brothers, sons, or other near relatives have been solicitors or attorneys. More than one Lord Chancellor, and others who have filled the highest places on the Bench with conspicuous integrity and consummate ability, both in ancient and in recent times, have begun life as attorneys or articled clerks. The truth is, that it is not in society, it is not in the world that this strict line is drawn, as if the one class were of purer blood than the other. They belong, and ought to belong, both of them, to the class of gentlemen; and they are both of them entitled to the most liberal education, that you can give them. To do this you ought to construct your scheme of education upon the best possible system, and bring together those students who are to supply both branches of the profession—so far, at all events, as their means and opportunities enable them and dispose them to take advantage of it; and you should make your examinations equally available to all. I cannot, for my own part, conceive what danger can be expected to arise from future barristers and future solicitors sitting in the same room and listening to the same lectures. In determining the particular examinations which may be required as necessary qualifications for admission to each branch of the profession, you will, of course, keep in view the nature of their respective duties; but this is quite 1499 consistent with offering to all of them indiscriminately all the instruction you can. I have endeavoured to picture to myself the supposed influence which some aspiring future barrister may acquire with some aspiring future attorney, when sitting in the same classroom, with a view to obtaining business in after life. But as that can be done now, where the inclination exists, I cannot see that the system I have sketched out is at all likely to injuriously affect the relations which should subsist between the two branches of the profession. And even if the result which is apprehended were to happen, I am by no means certain that it might not be a benefit rather than an evil. One great drawback upon beginners at the Bar at present is, that ability is very seldom a passport, in the first instance, to connection or business. Now, it is just possible that an eminent, able, and distinguished student might become known by reputation to his fellow-students through his merit alone, as is the case now at the Universities; and if you had young men sitting together, some of whom were afterwards to become barristers, and some solicitors, a reputation for learning and aptitude might perhaps procure for the young barrister, more easily than it does at present, some chance of obtaining a first start in business. I am not, I confess, very confident on that point; but I believe this would be much more likely to happen than that the association of fellow-students, not living together, but meeting in classes and examinations in early youth, should induce a forgetfulness of the proper relations which ought to exist between the two branches of the profession. I should be the very last person in the world who would recommend anything that would tend to destroy distinctions, the value of which I highly appreciate. But the practical view is this—if these distinctions are useful, they are not less likely to be so when you make each branch of practitioners as well-informed as you can. If they are useful, they will certainly be none the less useful from your giving the most liberal education to all who are going to follow either branch of the legal profession. I must thank the House for the patience with which they have listened to my statement; and before I sit down I must ask to be permitted to say a few words about the Resolutions which I have to propose. I 1500 have intentionally introduced into the first Resolution, in relation to the school of law which I propose that we should establish, the words, "in the government of which the different branches of the legal profession in England may be suitably represented;" not at all as desiring now to decide upon the precise means by which that representation should be accomplished, but because it is part of the principle of the scheme to my mind, if it is to be a large, advantageous, popular, and generally acceptable scheme, that it should be carried out in no narrow, invidious, or sectarian spirit. And with regard to the rest of that Resolution, I propose that there should be suitable examinations, qualifying the students to be admitted to practise as barristers or attorneys. Of course, all that is contemplated by these Resolutions could not be done by the sole authority of the Crown; and if the House adopt those Resolutions, and Her Majesty return a favourable Answer, it will be necessary that a Bill should be brought in; which I am, for my own part, perfectly prepared to do. In conclusion, I may mention, that a Motion for an Address to the Crown, in favour of the incorporation of the University of London, which may be regarded as a precedent for my second Resolution, was proposed and carried in this House in 1835; and I cannot but look upon the great success which has attended that institution as a happy augury for the results which may be expected to follow from the present Motion, if adopted by the House. I beg, Sir, to move the Resolutions of which I have given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that a General School of Law should be established in the Metropolis, in the government of which the different branches of the legal profession in England may be suitably represented; and that, after the establishment thereof, no person should be admitted to practise in any branch of the legal profession, either at or below the Bar, or as an attorney or solicitor in England, without a certificate of proficiency in the study of Law, granted after proper examinations by such General School of Law."—(Sir Roundell Palmer.)
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.