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Common Law History of Becoming a Lawyer With No Law School

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I am Michael Ehline; I am an expert on Common Law History of Becoming a Lawyer With No Law School. Modernly, attending law school and securing your Juris Doctorate (JD) or law degree from an ABA or state-accredited law school will be a prerequisite before practicing law in most U.S. states. The UK, including its commonwealth, has a similar path. Although I studied law under the California State Bar Law Office Study Program guidelines, a handful of states have their versions of legal apprenticeships.

Some people think there are advantages to attending a traditional, costly law school if they can manage to survive during legal studies and its enormous, crushing student debt. No matter what, either way, there is no such thing as a quick law degree. No matter what, a minimum level of training will be needed.


Law schools were not even a thought. Clergy was the closest thing England had to lawyers by the time of Alfred the Great. Lay people or “commoners” were generally not law practitioners. Hence, there was no “common law” yet. Commoners, descended from Germanic barbarians, often resorted to trial by battle, self-help, and blood feuds to resolve legal disputes.

There was no such animal as a wrongful death lawsuit, for example. Ultimately these heathen leaders received education from church institutions, including law and history. Eventually, commoners practiced law using rules modified from former Canon law religious courts and the shire’s royal laws.

  • 527-565 – The Roman Emperor Justinian prohibited any clergyman from pleading in lay courts, whatever the nature of the cause: unless it was one in which he had a personal interest or his Church or monastery parish was involved. Despite this, western bishops turned a blind eye, their clerics influencing and even running royal, secular courts for hundreds of years. Besides, clergy was typically the only people who could read, write or conduct record-keeping for local public officials. The king’s scribes were often religious monks, for example.

557 A.D. – Middle Ages Ecclesiastical Legal Advocacy

In Western Europe, in the main, the Justinian interdict was ignored (See above). The clergyman became indispensable in all matters about the orderly transaction of public business because of his education, whether in the chanceries or the courts.

First Lawyers Had No Law School?

True, no law schools existed until well after the Church created our modern university system. Few people other than clergy educated in guilds or schools practiced law. Hence, same as today, educated lawyers monopolized legal jobs. Due to the Papal Bulls against owning a bible, let alone reading, the church controlled thought similar to how modern [politicized] social media has taken over modern “news” reporting/censoring.

People who were called cleric lawyers:

  • Proctors: If a party to action appeared by a proctor, the proctor represented the party.
  • Advocatus: But if the party had the assistance of an advocate, the party had to make a personal appearance in court, supported, aided, counseled, and advised by the advocate on all matters of law and procedure.

Hence, the ecclesiastical proctor remained similar to early mediaeval attornatus’ (see below), whereas advocates had similarities to a mediaeval pleader, forespeka, vorsprecher narrator. However, advocates could argue and not just repeat statements.

Mediaeval Proctor

The ecclesiastical proctor was a kind of “officer” appointed by the court or selected by the client to represent a party that empowered him to appear on its behalf and manage its cause. Under certain conditions, the same person could act both as a proctor and advocate in the same case for the same client.

Mediaeval Advocate

Contrary To English Shire Courts, Parties In Religious Courts Were Allowed Their Advocates Any party appearing in an ecclesiastical court, whether as plaintiff or defendant, could appear either in person or by counsel, professional or not. In some instances, the court might insist on the appearance of counsel for the party. The professional duties of an ecclesiastical advocate loosely resembled the Roman Imperial period advocate.

In mediaeval society, clergymen were practically the only people who possessed some of that general education and learning, which is necessary to present or plead a case intelligently and convincingly. But subsequently, a difference arose as to the propriety of clerics practicing law, the custom varying depending upon who was in charge.

Did Proctors Or Advocates Attend Law School?

No. There were no law schools. And they probably had no undergrad requirements. We do know when proctors were commissioned candidates, and they had to pass through an apprenticeship.

  • Moral Character Rules – Genesis

Our secular moral character requirements are inherited from sixth-century ethics rules and standards. A cursory inspection of the Corpus Juris Civils of Justinian, especially of the Codex, shows the massive extent to which lawyers’ ecclesiastical regulations were dependent on Roman law. (Cf. Chroust. The Legal Profession in Ancient Imperial Rome, 30 NOTRE DAME LAW. 521, 579 (1955)).

Several provisions and rules existed regarding the supervision and discipline of proctors. They were to display restrained and dignified conduct in the presence of the court, refraining from “loud speech and babbling, and behave themselves quietly and modestly.(Could not buy the litigation, acquire an interest in the case, demand an excessive fee, or betray their client’s confidence to their party in opposite).

  • 1230: One title is based on the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, published around 1230, which includes Pope Gregory the Great of 596’s regulation, one from Pope Alexander III (1159-1181), one by Pope Clement III (1187-1191), four by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), and two of Pope Honorius I (1216-1227). Six more were issued by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241).
  • Circa 1298: Pope Boniface VIII’s Sixth Book of the Decretals followed Roman law, modified or expanded by Papal Decretals (decrees), Church Councils, or bishop/court created local statutes.

Compare Early Germanic Secular Courts – Rarely Recognized Another’s Right To Advocate

In a nutshell, Germanic peoples and their early Anglo-Saxon ancestors had no use for what we now call lawyers. These were warrior societies. “…every man ought to fight his own battles, using his hands or tongue as the occasion required.” (Id at 539). They looked down upon accusers refusing to litigate, arbitrate and face death for making accusations during their parliamentary courts, called the “Thing” or “Althing.”

During the arbitration, the accused and accuser might engage in trial by battle, the surviving victor being innocent of all charges. It appears that ancient courts relied upon a lawman to recite the law.

But this person did not advocate and was typically someone belonging to the king’s court. Modern scholars believe many German tribes were outlaws who either fled Scandinavia or were banished. (Source) (See also). The 5th and 6th Century German invasions of Western Europe saw the end of the once highly developed, prosperous Roman legal profession. (See Chroust, The Legal Profession in Ancient Imperial Rome, 30 NOTRE DAME LAW. 521 (1955); Chroust, The Legal Profession in Ancient Republican Rome, 30 NOTRE DAME LAW. 97 (1954); Chroust, Legal Education in Ancient Rome, 7 J. LEGAL ED. 509 (1955)).

These tribes, including the earlier-ancient Romans before them, had no attorney-client advocacy system, mainly because no concept of legal “agency” existed. (acting on another’s behalf in law.

Early Orators In Legal Causes Were The Closest Thing We Had To Secular Lawyers?

  • The Rise of The Vorsprecher

Germanic tribes allowed an accused, their professional orator, or Vorsprecher, to speak “their words” during court.(Vorsprecher, forespreca, furisprecho, redesman rechtsprecher, spruchman, rechtsager, asega, eosago, sagibaro, talman, prolocutor, or plain “mouth-piece”). A Vorsprecher was not trained in the law, nor was he allowed to advocate. He was to appear [often as a professional orator] to narrate their version of the facts.

But some Germanic kings vested others acting in their own interests with the right of representation by an advocate. It seems German tribes insultingly called these legal pleaders “criers.” (Latin: Clamatores). But anyone could be your Vorsprecher, even the judge deciding the case against you. No legal training was required because no advocacy was allowed unless you were the king’s Vorsprecher. (Vorsprecher‘s were great orators and storytellers, often becoming great leaders).

  • Distinguish Vorsprecher With Scandinavian “Lagman”

At first, lawspeakers/lagmen represented the people, and their duties and authority were connected to the assemblies (things). For most of the last thousand years, however, they were part of the king’s administration. A lawspeaker or lawman (Swedish: Lagman, Old Swedish: laghmaþer or Laghman, Danish: lovsigemand, Norwegian: Lagman, Icelandic: lög(sögu)maður, Faroese: løgmaður, Finnish: laamanni, Greenlandic: inatsitinuk) is a unique Scandinavian legal office. It has its basis in a common Germanic oral tradition, where wise people were asked to recite the law. The lawman’s function evolved into a legal office.

Germanic Tribes Become Anglo-Saxons Settling Britania

During this period, around the 5th century, Voumllkerwanderung tribes, including those formerly residing in Germany’s Angles and Saxony, settled part of Brittain, ultimately becoming Anglo-Saxons. (But other tribes mixed, including Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Lombards, Suebi, Frisii, and Franks).

  • Lack of Stable Laws = Social Instability

However, Nordic people’s preferring poetry and oral histories over a more superior written system of stable laws with professional clerks, courts, and advocates weren’t progressing society forward. Ancient England was far from being a unified society under such an unstable, Spartan-like system.

“It is an old axiom that a true legal profession – a class of trained and professionally acting experts who are conscious of their expertness and, hence, of their peculiar status within a given society – cannot possibly be found until there exists something like a fairly distinct and stable body of laws, a somewhat settled jurisdiction with regular courts handled by experts, and a fairly consistent legal procedure.” (Anton-Hermann Chroust, Legal Profession during the Middle Ages: The Emergence of the English Lawyer Before 1400, 31 Notre Dame L. Rev. 537 (1956).)

Ultimately, as laymen were admitted to the bar, these “commoners” practiced what is modernly “common law.”

813 AD – Council of Mainz

  • Clerics and monastics were again prohibited from actively participating in a secular lawsuit, except when involving Church or a Church interest or defending orphans or widows.

871 AD – Enter Alfred The Great

Ultimately, especially after the accession of Alfred the Great (Viking slayer) (871), the realm developed established rules similar to traditions inherited from wandering Germanic tribes. The Doom Book, Dōmbōc, Code of Alfred, or Legal Code of Ælfred the Great was the code of laws (“dooms” were laws or judgments) compiled by Alfred the Great. Alfred codified three previous Saxon codes:

Alfred prefixed the Ten Commandments of Moses. He even incorporated Mosaic Code rules of life into a Christian code of ethics. The History Channel smash hit mini-series, Vikings loosely bases some true history about Alfred’s desire to learn history and benevolence during Ragnar’s conquests. For example, some crimes were monetarily compensable concerning victim restitution. But there were still no lawyers, as we call them today.

1066 AD – Enter William the Norman Conquerer

After the successful King William’s 1066 Norman invasion of Britania, things dramatically changed for legal professionals. Our American common law system can be seen as a fusion between:

  • Barbaric Germanic traditions,
  • Franco-Nordic laws (Norman Conquest)
  • Laypersons entering legal practice/advocacy after the 13th century.

William, I brought efficient legal administration at speeds only dreamed of by King Alfred. He was heavily reliant upon court clerks and chroniclers, establishing the first English Census. We must remember that the Normans were French-speaking descendants of Danish-Norwegian Vikings, raiding and settling France’s western coast. These barbarians ultimately absorbed Christianity, with its more refined Holy Roman clerical and legal systems.

  • Fusion of Anglo-Saxon-Norman-Papal-Law

But Norman custom was not simply transplanted into England; upon its arrival, an emerging new body of rules based on local conditions materialized. Elements of King Alfred’s burgeoning Anglo-Saxon system surviving the “Invasion” included the jury, ordeals (trials by testing physical strength or by “battle”), and outlawry (banishing a person beyond the protection of the law or exiling them).

  • Commoners were not allowed to practice law, as they were not clergy. The king’s roving secular courts had not yet conflicted as they would in later papal power struggles.

Normans maintained the use of writs (orders mandating someone to appear at a court; see also, The development of a centralized judiciary). We must always remember that priestly study was among the highest status education one could receive. Only men of God could read, and the church prohibited the private ownership of Bibles. Ecclesiastical law and papal canons needed interpreting.

Even the Holy Templar Knights (Knights with banks, lands, titles, and money needing management and legal protection) maintained their own priestly house counsel, as it were.

No English Common Law Existed?

True. England had no professional, commoner lawyers or judges; instead, literate clergymen administered, some familiar with Roman law and the canon law. During this period, the Christian church developed the universities of the 12th century. Before the Reformation, mediaeval Roman Canon law had original jurisdiction over most English legal matters.

Civil Canon law was basically copied from Rome’s Civil law, influencing modem English ecclesiastical and common law. America’s first corporate universities, including Harvard, adopted this religious heritage, emblazoning its first two official seals with “Christo et Ecclesiae” (“For Christ and Church”) (1650 and 1692).

  • Canon Law Applied

Canon law was applied to English church courts, with revived Roman law seeing less influence in England, despite Norman’s government dominance. England and its colonies during the 12th-13th centuries saw ecclesiastical law taught mostly by the clergy. Even the king’s early central courts had no professional advocates. The proceedings were informal, and parties (or their speakers) presented their own cases before their king, noble, or clergy.

Until the thirteenth century, and far into it, the clergy remained the prominent legal practitioners in the ecclesiastical courts and lay courts. As a matter of fact, clergymen predominated lay courts so much that a word was coined: Nullus clericus nisi causidicus (no clergyman was not also a legal practitioner). It would not be till much later that British Canonical law was subsumed into the Chancery court.

The First English Law Clerk Was A King?

Probably. Norman princes were educated in all manner, including by professorial monks. The Anglo-Saxon Born Norman king, Henry I, was called Beauclerk because he was well educated, fluent in Latin reading and writing, with knowledge of Anglo-Saxon Domesday Book laws, nature, and history. Beauclerk was a fan of the last Anglo-Saxon King, Edward the Confessor. (1042-1066).

Edward’s mother, a Norman, and was born around 1003, or 1005. Edward was recorded as a “witness” overseeing the two charters of 1005. In the early 1030s, Edward witnessed four charters in Normandy, later signing two of them as king of England.

  • 1100: (The Charter of Liberties, also called the Coronation Charter, was Henry I’s written proclamation to bind the King to certain laws regarding the treatment of nobles, church officials, and individuals. (Magna Carta forerunner).
  • 1140 – James Brundage has explained: “[by 1140], no one in Western Europe was a professional lawyer or canonist.”

Henry II (1154–1189); Rise Of The “Common” “Law Attornatus” and Servientes or Serjeants

Henry II’s royal officials roamed the country, inquiring about administering justice. Church and state were separate during his reign, each having its own law and court systems. This led to centuries of rivalry over jurisdiction, especially since church courts’ pre-Reformation appeals could be taken to Rome. And all the “lawyers” of the day were religious employees.

Attornatus Defined

The term attornatus, or attorney, probably is early German. (Anglo-Saxon) Freemen of each shire were regularly summoned to the Torn by the shire reeve (modernly, sheriff). Any man incapable of personally attending the torn could send their friend or close family member relative to represent the missing person “at the torn.”

Their “attorney” substitute now represented the attorney party. Other theories exist the word is French atournee or atourner, with Godofredus labeling this an 11th Century Latinized “loan word.” Gradually this became a person prepared or equipped to act in substitution of parties during legal proceedings.

Attornatus Distinguished From Forespeka

The attornatus, forensically speaking, remains clearly distinguishable from the forespeka or Vorsprecher. “If you appear by attorney, he represents you, but when you have the assistance of an advocate [scil., a leader], you are present, and he supports your cause by his learning, ingenuity, and zeal. Appearance by attorney is one thing, but admitting advocates to plead the cause of another is a totally different proceeding.” (Serjeant’s Case 5; Lord Brougham explains attorney-pleader (forespeka) differences.).

  • 1150 – A small but increasing number of the clergy became experts in canon law. But the clergy gradually withdrew or became barred from practicing law in lay courts. Laypeople had begun replacing clergy legal practitioners.

1161-1185: The First Temple, or Inns of Court

Knights Templars lodged the first law professors at their Inns of Court.

No one knows the Inns of Court’s exact origins. But believe it or not, the Knights Templar liked lawyers. Originally, their lawyers lived with them in their castles. Ultimately they became Inns, where all lawyers in England received legal apprenticeships. But, they were central to the development of English law and the Legal Profession. By 1422, the king’s serjeants were almost exclusively drawn from the court’s four inns. Mentors gave readings on commoner lay laws and certain aspects of Roman law. (Fun fact: Ancient Serjeant = Modern Sergeant = Servant)

Almost all the Judges taught there and returned to attend readings. And the inns weren’t aloof as to the developments of the common law. But their primary function was to “preserve and elaborate the settled learning concerning real actions and real property, and it was in that sense that the law schools made tough law.” The Inns showed us the law was not a creature of statute only. They showed us a human influencers’ body, refining the legal profession, producing future legislators and judges.

  • The Honourable Societies – The Inner and Outer Temples were sandwiched between the remnants of Roman ruins called “the Liberty of the City,” just outside London’s protective walls. “This gate opens not immediately into the City itself, but into the Liberty or Freedom thereof.” (Queen Anne, 1708).
Temple Bar Circa 1700. All rights reserved. Fair use.
  • The Templars considered it an honor to remain posted outside the “protective walls” of London’s secular society.
  • The Temple’s construction and remodel phases can be dated between 1161 and 1185, named for the warrior monks of the iconic Order of The Knight’s Templars. Templars originally lodged its lawyers and allies, the Knights Hospitalers, within Temple walls. The Temple is where knights launched holy crusades when England’s Kings and Rome’s Pope were were religious allies.

Rank Structure Of The Temple Inns

The masters became known as benchers while the students were classified into three categories:

  1. Readers: Experienced teaching assistants/students, known as readers, were employed in instruction in somewhat the same manner as contemporary law school professors.
  2. Inner Barrister: New students, whose course of instruction was largely lecture
    and observation were denominated, inner barristers.
  3. Outer Barrister: outer barristers, was perhaps the equivalent of today’s second-year law
    school class and their studies were dominated by participation in the “moot.”

Possible Origins Of Legal Term, “Bar”

  • Temple Bar. Evolved from the so-called “Liberty line,” or “First-Barrier” (A chain gate draped between the Temple and London’s gates.). Ultimately, the bar came to mean one thing for “legal London,” and another for the courts. (This is where we traced the legal terms “Barrister,” and “passing the bar,” or first barrier to practicing law) Modernly, each Temple’s dining hall still has a long wooden bar dividing the governors (benchers) from their apprentices. For non-lawyers, since 1351, the Temple Bar is mentioned historically as the location victorious kings would pass beneath its arches. This may have something to do with holy crusades being launched from this location.

“The Liberty line was marked by a chain gate which became known as the Temple Bar, now a stone gateway of the same name. Along with London Bridge, the gateway became a prime public location used to display the heads of traitors and rebels as a warning to others. Below the gateway was a well-used pillory.”Duhaime’s Law Dictionary, “Inns of Court Definition.”

  • Call to the Bar or Call to Bar referenced the wooden barrier separating the public and “Apprentice at the Law” from the judge’s bench. Barristers, like attorneys today, stood or sat behind the bar while speaking to and facing the judge, staging their legal briefs, papers and pleadings there. (We lawyers must seek admission from the court before passing the bar to approach the bench (See the Temple influence? Ex: “Your honor, may I approach?“)
  • Bar in Middle Ages: Bar also referenced the king’s summons, calling a legally qualified man to address the King’s Bench’s legal issues.
  • “Bar” Modern Use: Ultimately, in common law countries, this term interchangeably came to mean passing a bar exam and being admitted to practice law as a barrister, or attorney, with solicitors passing a different but similar examination. Modernly, some scholars claim that the word bar was derived from the old English/European custom separating court business between a public viewing area. At least one Wikipedia editor thinks “The origin of the term bar is from the barring furniture dividing a mediaeval European courtroom.” But they provided no citation in support.
  • See Image of the Bar!
Temples of England Inns of Court

England’s Four Inns of Court

Due to the different types of legal education required, four Inns of Court evolved to train Barristers, responsible for teaching and nurturing law students for their unique legal skillsets as follows:

Ultimately, this Temple Inn evolved into two “Temples,” as follows:

  1. The Honourable Society of The Inner Temple,
  2. The Honourable Society of The Middle Temple

Next on our list of Inns of Court are:

3. The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn: not to be confused with Abraham Lincoln, remains the largest Inn, with official records showing its existence since at least 1422.

4. The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn: traces its roots to 1569, but law student studies likely never happened there until the later fourteenth century.

Heraldry of the First Inns of Court of London

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Brief Legal Education History Of the Inns of Chancery

There were two types of Inns, Inns of Court and Inns of Chancery, attached to an Inn of Court “like Maids of Honour to a Princess.” These Inns were responsible for training solicitors. There were other equitable courts we will not cover here. This study limits itself to the evolution away from apprenticeships and the remnants left behind in those few hold-out states. At their height, there were eight or ten Inns of Chancery.

Inns Of Court Legal Education

  • Evolution Of Law Practice Admissions From Guilds to Inns

As the namesake suggests, inns were various structures housing various law students who would live and earn their keep as apprentices, laboring under their legal masters, reading for the law, and eventually working as barristers solicitors (previous Court of Chancery lawyers).

Inns remained unincorporated bodies, run by senior members called “masters of the bench” or “benchers.” When law students had been “called” to enter the profession by fellow Inn members, they would receive recognition and authorization to legally practice law and plead at the bar in England’s higher courts.

What Was The “Moot”

The best method of legal education for Inns members was attending court. When the court was in session, the Inns were crowded with the judges, lawyers, and students. When courts were not hearing cases, law readers gave lectures and conducted Bolts within the same courthouses, a special moot court.

Since case reports were rare, moots and open court helped students understand current legal questions, as they were argued by admitted and skilled litigators with student input. After moot courts, a collegial and pedagogical discussion between the above parties ensued . “the mooters presented the judges with a slice of bread and a mug of beer. . . .”

At night, generally, Inns students engaged in educational exercises.

  • End of the Moots

By the eighteenth century, the readings and moots had declined, students being left mainly to their own devices. England’s only requirement for bar admissions by benchers of the Inns was proof that they had kept twelve terms eating the mandatory number of meals.

Another method to gain bar entry was proof a student had clerked with established barristers. But barristers had no formal time commitment to supervise law students in the barrister’s chambers. With no standard tests, apprenticeship quality was never subject to objective, standardized evaluations.

  • Origins of the Crib and “Crib-Notes”?

Although student-barristers were expected to read certain standard works, such as Littleton, Coke, Glanville, and Bracton, Lord Mansfield set aside a portion received most barrister legal education in the courts. Lord Mansfield set aside a portion of the courtroom for student use to accommodate student needs, called the “crib.” Incidentally, the modern phrase “crib notes” likely arose from his teaching method.

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The New Non-Clergy Law Student

The UK’s new legal system presented many opportunities for non-clergy and other men of the cloth to read for and practice law during the 14th century.

  • 1164: During this period, we see Inns of Court coming into its own. Religious officials became absolutely disqualified by Papal Bull from law practice in lay courts.
  • 1178: King Henry II appointed two clerics and three laymen to a “permanent and central court.” From this time on, it was not unusual that laymen on the Bench should preside over their ecclesiastical brethren.
  • 1179: Third Lateran Council [Citation needed]
  • 1190 to 1230: A crucial shift began with some men practicing canon law as legal professionals.
  • 1215: Fourth Lateran Council admonished clergy to never appear for a secular lawsuit, except in cases affecting themselves or on behalf of the poor and the distressed.
  • 1215: Magna Charta agreed upon by king Henry II.
  • 1216-1272 – Henry III: By now, despite the Papal admonishments, most royal justices, including royal clerks or officials, were technically clergymen. But beginning under Henry III would recruit his lawyers would recruit lawyers from the royal Bench’s Bar.
  • 1217: Law of the Forest (introduced as policy in 1217 and confirmed by Edward III in 1225).
  • 1217-1218: The Pope, frustrated with King Henry I and II, prohibited England’s clergy from practicing law in secular English Common Law courts. “neither clerics nor monastics are to appear as advocati in a secular court, unless in their own causes or in those of the poor.” (Later incorporated in the so-called Constitutions of Cardinal Otho in 1237).
  • 1225: Law of Forest confirmed.
  • 1232: Two French councils in 1231 had mandated that lawyers had to swear an oath of admission before practicing before the bishop’s courts in their regions. A London papal legate created a similar oath in 1237.
  • 1234: Ultimately, in 1234 AD, Henry III banned legal education “within the City” of London, prompting a mass legal educator exodus, including clergy and law students leaving the protective “Liberty” of the City’s walls. (He couldn’t just ban priest law teachers, as he could set of a Holy War against England) The warrior Templar monks (See above), still vassals of the Pope, granted these legal disciples respite alongside their own legal counsel then training as Templar lawyers, renting space as it were, to these displaced jurists.
  • 1236: The great barons of Normandy were permitted to appoint an attornatus, provided they ‘had secured a royal license…”
  • 1237: Constitutions of Cardinal Otho affirms restrictions on religious officials participating in secular courts.

Clerical legal representatives were on the decline in England, as was Rome-based Christianity.

1270-1300 – Rise Of The Full Attornatus

By now, we see two classes of attorney rise:

  1. Full Attornatus: The full attornatus helped courtiers, nobles, clergy, people living far away, or those engaged in protracted causes. Because certain people (sick, infirm, far away) could not always appear personally, the attornatus became a class of pros and, like servientes or serjeants, were becoming “full-time lawyers.” But unlike public deputies of the day, these new representatives were educated.
  2. Attornatus Regis: The King’s attorney. (See below)
  • 1272-1307 – Edward I: The English Bench and Bar’s secularization continued, ushering in a class of professional legal practitioners in general. By Edward’s death, most English lawyers practicing law in royal courts were professional laymen. Edward also instituted the first Moral Character Law.
  • 1275: France’s professionalization trend saw a proposal at the Second Council of Lyon in 1275 that all ecclesiastical courts must institute an oath of admission influential in many European courts, including England.
  • 1275 – First Statute of Westminster: England’s civil courts joined the trend towards professionalization. (Statute was enacted punishing professional lawyers guilty of deceit). (no sheriff shall suffer “barretors to maintain quarrels in their shires, neither stewards of great Lords, nor others, unless he be attorney for his Lord, to make suit or give judgment in the counties …” The non admitted attornatus was considered a deputy, not respected as the Crown’s particular attornatus, merely acting as their lord’s deputy at the Bar or Bench.
  • 1278: The King’s attornatus or attornati, called attornatus Regis (King’s attorney), sued the Bishop of Exeter. After that, Attornatus Regis began assuming serviens Regis roles. But the King’s attorney still needed the “King’s commission.” (or Chancellor’s commission).
  • 1280: the mayor’s court of the city of London promulgated regulations concerning admission procedures, including administering an oath.

  • 1285: Second Statute of Westminster provided penalties for serjeants, leaders, and attorneys who engaged in unprofessional conduct. Lawyers were made legally liable for defrauding clients and negligent representation of causes. Lawyers were penalized if convicted of engaging in or consenting to deceit or collusion in Royal courts. But mainly it was the King’s serjeants, and pleaders complained of.
  • 1288: Norman attornatio were finally allowed to practice in lower Norman courts.
  • 1289: “The City Ordinance of 1289” regulated London’s legal practitioners.
  • 1290: The so-called Mirror of Justices observed that “no counteur [pleader] should be a man of religion or an ordained cleric.”
  • 1292: King Edward I appoints 140 attorneys, including their apprentices, to accompany his common-law courts, helping litigants. This increased formal legal training needs in the realm.
  • 1294: The 1288 Norman Court rule allowing law attornatus in lawyer courts was abolished in 1294 by the Parliament of Paris, including Normandy.
  • 1295: First Mention of Attorney General. “because John . . . is at the King’s command, . . . he may have general attorneys in all his lawsuits.” The King, London, and the great barons, like any large corporation, constantly needed competent legal representation.
  • 1297: Confirmatio Cartarum – Edward II recognizes pre-existing natural laws respecting liberty and freedom from certain government interference. (Learn more about Natural Law Here).
  • 1297: Remonstrances Edward II is served with the Remonstrances. Edward I’s incessant wars and his confrontational style led to conflict with some lay and ecclesiastical lords. Edward II’s bias towards his lover/friend Piers Gaveston in giving him royal titles created great jealousy among the realm’s magnates as well, culminating in complaints about the royal government.
  • 1298: London’s First City Attorney – London appoints William of Grantham (Granham or Graham) city attornatus to the royal court, “to receive annually so long as he be attorney twenty shillings.” (“the freedom of the City” granted to “attorney before the King.”)

Over time, the legal profession in England was divided into two functions; as follows:

  1. Forespeaker (advocatus or prolocutor): A person stood beside a litigant and spoke as if they were him.
  2. Attornotus or procurator: A representative who acted on behalf of someone in his absence, bound to represent that person.
  • 1307-1327: Edward II complained his Barons of the Exchequer admitted attorneys in other courts. This period saw the extraordinary growth of a professional attorney class. The Crown regularly granted permission to appoint special and general attornati, either by statute or by writ. The attornati also received remuneration from clients.
  • 1308: Parliament banishes Lord Gaveston, [previously banished by Edward I’s father] (Earl of Cornwall, and likely Edward II’s homosexual lover) from the realm under pain of Papal ex-communication.
  • 1309: Edward II convinces the Pope to drop annulment risks against Gaveston, and Lord Gaveston returns to England from Ireland.
  • 1309: Gaveston’s arrogance remains such an affront to the Lords, barons, bishops that many in parliament won’t attend sessions with Gaveston present. The king ordered Gaveston to stay away, and parliamentarians appeared, illegally, wearing full battle regalia, armed, demanding the appointment of Ordainers. Their goal was to prevent the king from acting against their interests again.
  • 1311: Ordinances of 1311 are accepted by Edward II under duress, forced upon him by Papal clergy, including rebellious Baron’s and Lords, called Lord Ordainers. (Attempting to end arbitrary royal government action, including confiscatory taxes, etc.)
  • 1312: Lord Gaveston is captured and executed when two Welshmen beheaded him on behalf of Parliamentarians and their allies, [now preparing for war against the Crown] his body left behind.

  • 1312: The End Of Templar Influence Over English Legal Education. Most of us are aware of motion pictures like Tom Hank’s, based on Dan Brown’s best-selling book, Davinci Code. As in real life, the King of France, going bankrupt from Holy Crusade debts, conspired with the new Pope to destroy the Knights Templar. France’s king attempted to confiscate Templar’s wealth. The Church turned its allied Orders living in England against the Templars. The English King was also deeply in debt to the Templars. So he saw no problems when the Order of Saint John’s Knight’s Hospitalers defeated the Temple Inns Templar crusaders in 1312, displacing their former landlords. But their Order honored the rental/lease agreement of the resident lawyers and law students apprenticing there.
  • 1322: The Statute of York, 1322 undoes the Ordinances of 1311 and prohibits lawmaking attornati and inferior officers of the royal courts (clerks) from interfering with royal prerogative.
  • 1344: Inns of Chancery, Clifford’s Inn is said to come into existence.
  • 1349: Marks the era England/Papacy began severing secular disputes from Papal courts and clerics in earnest.
  • 1349: Thavie’s Inn of Chancery was founded, and for several centuries, Chancery Inn education was the first step towards equity practitioners becoming a barrister. A student would first join one of the Inns of Chancery, where he was taught moots and rote learning by Readers sent from the Inn of Court to which his Inn was attached. These readers presided over the moots and engage in class discussions. At the end of each Inn’s legal term, gifted students would be transferred to the parent Inn of Court for stage II.
  • 1392: The House of Commons suggested that no clerk attached to Royal courts should be admitted as counsel or attornatus to other parties. (conflict of interest). (Attorneys are also no longer held liable for their client’s wrongful deeds).
  • 1402: In the year 1402, the Commons complained that many instances of legal malpractice had occurred.
  • 1413: Statute was enacted protecting law practitioners as a class, restricting legal practice. (No Under-Sheriff, Sheriffs Clerk, Sheriff’s Bailiff or Receiver, may act as an attorney in royal courts while holding office – Titles of Nobility).
  • 1439: The attorney was fined forty shillings for failing to pay for his law license. (No person should regularly practice law unless duly admitted by the Mayor and Aldermen).
  • 1461: Approximately 100 students engaged in Inns of Chancery studies. Inns of Chancery also served as accommodation and offices by solicitors.

  • 1512-1517: Fifth Lateran Council.
  • 1517: Luther nailed his 1517 smash hit Ninety-five Theses to the door of a local Dioces, with copies being made widely available. With the invention of the Guttenberg printing press, copies of the Holy Bible, banned from public view by the Church, would become widely available. No longer maintaining a biblical text stranglehold, the Catholic Church was confronted by renegade, heretic German monk Martin Luther.
  • 1521: Edict of Worms officially bans Holy Roman Empire citizens from agreeing with or spreading Luther’s “blasphemy.”
  • 1535: The Protestant Reformation became a huge powerplay for Europe’s monarchs and Hapsburg Empire loyalists. The political separation of the Church of England from Roman influence brought England alongside this new movement. Henry VIII establishes the Anglican Church, tired of the Pope’s spiritual control over English courts and people. The king effectively breaks England away from the Papacy after its final insult in refusing to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

  • 1539: Ultimately, the British Crown evicted the Knights Hospitallers and Order of Saint John from this guilded property between 1539-1540.
  • 1562: The Statute Against Forgery prohibits attorney punishment for pleading his client’s forged deed if he was not a party to the forgery. (“immunity” of attornatus is older).
  • 1608: King James I enacts Inns of the Court Charter. (Law students, teachers/governors have rights to stay and train at Inns of Court).
  • Date: The English Reformation sped up under King Edward the VI. But then, for a short period, Queen Mary I and King Philip Catholicism were back. But The Act of Supremacy 1558 renewed the schism, with the Elizabethan Settlement earning Britain its sovereignty from Rome.
  • 1620: Senior English judges ruled that all four inns would maintain equal order of precedence. The English legal craft of learning the law from the 16th century forward would primarily involve legal apprentices volunteering, or paying a fee, attending court with their masters, living and working among either their head barrister, “professors” until the cessation of apprenticeship training, swearing their lawyer’s oath.

  • 1642: After the First English Civil War in 1642, teaching Chancery students to be barristers at the Inns ended. Chancery Inns were now a dedicated association for solicitors used as offices and accommodations. England’s war of independence hurt the legal profession. This is where we see barrister Inns of Court seven or more years of legal training all but disappearing as a rule.

  • The Decline of Inns Chancery-Importance In English Law Legal Studies
  • By the 15th century, these Inns of Chancery had already morphed into preparatory schools for the Inns of Court, after the Inns of Court began charging higher acceptance fees to students trained in independent Chancery Inns. Experienced solicitors made Inns sort of a warm marketing network, similar to CAALA or ABOTA today. Still, many Inns fell in and out of allegiance with the Inns of Court, with some claiming independence through the eighteenth century.
  • NOTE: American Inns, similar to English Inns, are akin to social clubs, offering mentoring and guidance rather than supervising law study. I, too, was a member of the Benjamin Arranda III pupilage group of Redondo Beach, California.
  • NOTE: Like today’s law schools, only very wealthy or well-off students could pay the exorbitant price of an Inns of Court legal education, with King James requiring “a gentleman by descent” as a pre-condition to entry.
  • 1673: These Temple’s residents, by now mainly Middle and Inner Temple pupils and law mentors, ultimately purchased the defeated Templar’s land and structures in 1673 for a £78 payment.

  • 1729: These legal training methods slowly fell into decline after the latter 16th century, with many students now reading books made possible in part by Luther’s popularizing of the printing press. With Inns training being replaced by Blackstone and Sir Francis Bacon’s writings, the mid 17th century saw little formalized English legal education until the solicitor’s apprenticeship program in 1729.
  • 1739 and 1825: The foundation of the Society of Gentlemen Practisers and Law Society of England and Wales in 1739 and 1825, respectively, were professional bodies established for professional solicitors but gradually dissolved and sold over time.

This section covered most of the ancient history of becoming a lawyer. Go here to read part two about becoming an attorney under common law.