01 February 2006

Law Reform, in 1873 England

The Guardian today has this story from its archives on the reform of the Inns of Court in 1873 London. The short article by an anonymous barrister, applauding initiatives for a more systematic legal education, provides a fascinating look back to a very different (was it?!) age. Some excerpts:

The Inns of Court were, in short, and for most practical purposes still are, places of education which educate nobody. (...) At last the benchers, terrified by the thought that Lord Selborne was coming into power, have made up their minds to do something which shall at any rate look vigorous. They have made it necessary for every man in future called to go through some sort of examination. The most conservative members of the most conservative profession have admitted the necessity for a revolution.

By far the most important [object of the reform] is to get systematic legal instruction. The law has been a science which could be picked up by practice but which could not be learnt, for the very simple reason that there was nobody to teach it. (...) The experience in chambers has been more than half wasted since it is impossible to understand what a practitioner does unless some one will explain to you why he does it; to study in chambers whilst receiving no teaching is like walking the hospital without getting any instruction in medicine.

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