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 were 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 educations 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.
In Western Europe, in the main, the Justinian interdict was ignored (See ). The clergyman became an indispensable person in all matters about the orderly transaction of public business because of his education, whether in the chanceries or the courts.
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 read, the church controlled thought similar to how modern [politicized] social media has taken over modern “news” reporting/censoring.
People called called cleric lawyers:
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.
The ecclesiastical proctor was a kind of “officer” appointed by the court or by the client to represent a party empowered him to appear 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.
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.
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.
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)).
There existed several provisions and rules as to 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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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. (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 masters became known as benchers while the students were classified into three categories:
“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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Clerical legal representatives were on the decline in England, as was Rome-based Christianity.
By now, we see two classes of attorney rise:
Over time, the legal profession in England was divided into two functions; as follows:
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.
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