The Education of Lawyers

1. 1820–60*

The State of Legal Education

In 1820, no formal legal education was available for men who wished to be barristers. Instead, it was left to the market to determine whether those who wished to practise were competent to do so.1 Before an aspiring advocate could practise, he had to be admitted to an inn of court, and be called to the bar. There were no educational qualifications for admission to an inn; but those who wished to be admitted had to submit a statement showing their respectability, signed by two people, and pay a £100 deposit.2 Being voluntary societies, the inns had complete discretion both in respect to admissions and calls.3 The benchers’ aims appear to have been to ensure that all barristers were respectable, even if they were not learned. To obtain a call, a candidate had only to have been a member of his inn for five years—or three, if he was a university graduate—and to have ‘kept’ 12 terms, ‘which means being present at the time that grace is said [at dinner], for a minute or two, a certain number of days in each term during those three years’.4

Legal education had once been vibrant at the ‘third university of England’, as the inns were once known. However, teaching at the inns had fallen into decline by the early eighteenth century,5 and only the formal vestiges of their earlier functions remained. These included the appointment of Readers who gave no (p.1176) readings, and the requirement that students perform perfunctory exercises prior to their call.6 Occasional courses of lectures were still given at the inns, but this was on the initiative of private individuals, such as Joseph Chitty, who gave a course of lectures at Lincoln’s Inn on commercial law in 1810.7

Legal education at the ancient universities at this time was also moribund. Although the Regius chairs in Roman civil law in both ancient universities dated from the reign of Henry VIII, the subject was weak at both establishments. In Oxford (where J. G. Phillimore held the chair), no lectures were given. Cambridge’s J. W. Geldart did lecture, and reinstated examinations, but did not attract many students, and left nothing in the way of a scholarly legacy. Degrees in civil law were taken by men who required them for a college fellowship, or who wished to practise in Doctors’ Commons; but aspiring common lawyers did not see any benefit in them.8 Both universities had also established chairs in English law in the eighteenth century, but these were no stronger than their civil law counterparts. Oxford’s Vinerian chair was a sinecure by 1820. When appointed in 1823 to the Downing chair in Cambridge, Thomas Starkie began to give lectures; but he also gave up after two years.9 Oxbridge had little to offer the aspiring lawyer in 1820.

Instead of a formal education in law, whether at the inns or at a university, students were expected to learn in the office of a practitioner. By 1820, those intending to practise normally paid an annual fee of 100 guineas to become the pupil of a special pleader, equity draftsman or conveyancer. Though reformers called for fixed hours of instruction from the pupil master, those who took in pupils were under no obligation to teach them.10 Instead, it was left to the pupil to copy out precedents, and learn the law from observing the business of the chamber and (p.1177) attending court.11 By the 1820s, the system was frequently criticized by those who wanted a more scientific form of legal education. Nonetheless, the practical training it offered continued to be strongly defended by the profession. In his advice book to the law student, Samuel Warren therefore insisted that he could not learn the law simply by reading books, or hearing lectures, but could only learn by observing the material which came into his office ‘under the superintendence of a competent teacher: one whose tact and experience will keep business and systematic reading ancillary to each other; who will chalk out a proper line of study, and illustrate it by actual practice’.12 C. H. Whitehurst, treasurer of the Middle Temple, said that intending practitioners got the ‘only instruction which is valuable to them’ in a pleader or draftsman’s office.13

If many students were left to fend for themselves in the office, some were taught by masters who took the education of their pupils seriously. Chitty, who had more than 20 pupils, gave them lectures, which formed the basis of the many treatises he published.14 Andrew Amos also gave private classes at his chambers in the 1820s, attracting ‘a very large number’ thanks to the ‘rather more philosophical view of the subject of law’ which he offered.15 Amos’s teaching was by a form of seminar, in which he directed students on their readings, and discussed them. Students also formed their own debating societies and mooting clubs.16 Like many others, his students formed a club, and he ‘used to go and talk afterwards to them upon the faults in their reasonings or declamations’.17

Students were also advised to pursue their own course of reading, tailored to explain legal points they encountered while in chambers or attending court, and to attend their own law debating clubs.18Students had long suffered from a lack of systematic literature. Early nineteenth-century law students were still expected to learn property law from Coke upon Littleton; and as late as 1846, James Stewart pointed out that ‘the best book that you can put in the hands of the student at the pleader’s chambers’ on many points of common law was Williams’s edition (p.1178) of Saunders’ Reports, where the student had to find key points in two sets of notes on seventeenth century cases.19 However, things were improving, for by 1820 there was a wider range of legal literature available to the student, given the growth of printed legal treatises often written by young practitioners and pupil masters.20 The growth of a legal periodical press from the late 1820s, republishing lectures and offering the reader treatises on various aspects of the law in weekly instalments, also provided a means of acquiring legal knowledge.

In contrast to barristers, there were some formal educational requirements for those wishing to become attorneys. Under the 1729 Attorneys Act, those wishing to enrol as attorneys had to provide written articles to prove they had served a clerkship. The Act also confirmed the duty of the common law judges to examine the competence of the candidates.21 Articles of clerkship were much like other kinds of articles of apprenticeship, with the master undertaking to train and maintain the young man. However, there was no control over the education offered in the attorney’s office, and the examination given to articled clerks was largely perfunctory.22 Much therefore depended on how busy the attorney’s office was, and how much time he devoted to his clerk. Clerks learned the law by copying documents, as well as reading manuals on practice.23 In practice, the kind of learning experienced by the young clerk was hence not very different in nature from that experienced by the would-be barrister. Indeed, many eighteenth-century parents, who wished their sons to be barristers, placed them first in the office of an attorney, a practice which persisted into the nineteenth century.24

Initiatives in Legal Education

By the 1820s, members of the ‘lower’ branch, who were keen to assert the respectable nature of their profession, were increasingly concerned to reform the education of attorneys. From the 1790s, the reform of their education was linked to the creation of a body which would regulate both admission to the profession and the (p.1179) conduct of solicitors and attorneys.25 Education was therefore high on the agenda of the Law Society formed in 1825, and incorporated in 1831. In 1833, it began to provide lectures in its hall. The lectures were given by barristers, and attracted audiences of approximately 200 articled clerks, as well as attorneys.26 Lectures were given on common law, conveyancing, equity, bankruptcy, and criminal law.27 In 1836, the Law Society took control of the examination of attorneys, when new rules laid down by the judges specified that admission to practice would require candidates to pass a written examination taken in the Hall of the society.28 Members of the council of the Law Society were the examiners, appointed annually by the judges.

Though the examination was compulsory for all aspiring attorneys, the Law Society’s library was only open to its members and their clerks. The 1830s and 1840s accordingly saw clerks in the provinces to devise ways to assist each other in learning. Encouraged by periodicals aimed at attorneys, which republished the lectures given at the Law Society, clerks in the 1840s corresponded with each other on moot points, and set up their own debating clubs. Law students societies were set up in a number of provincial towns. There were also calls for local law societies to set up courses of lectures, acted on by some, as in Manchester.29

By 1833, a number of initiatives had also been taken to provide lectures for those wishing to become barristers, as well as aspirant attorneys. Private lectures continued to be given, such as those at Lyon’s Inn hall in 1828 by Charles Petersdorff and in 1829 by J. B. Byles.30 More significant were the lectures offered by London University, founded in 1826. Two professors were appointed, who began to give lectures in 1829. Amos was appointed to the chair of English law, and lectured to audiences of between 50 and 150, his popularity increased by the practical approach he took. The other lecturer, John Austin, whose approach was more dryly philosophical, was less successful in the size of his audience, though the lectures he gave would form the core of the most influential of nineteenth-century English works on jurisprudence. This institution intended to create more chairs and initiate a German-style legal education. At King’s (p.1180) College, a combined chair of jurisprudence and English law was set up, with J. J. Park appointed in 1831. In the event, by 1834, enrolment was falling, and the chairs vacated by Austin and Amos (after their resignations) and Park (after his death) soon declined into sinecures.31 Amos later claimed that it was the success of his lectures which encouraged others to emulate his efforts. The university’s initiative certainly fuelled the Law Society’s interest in lectures,32and in 1833 the Inner Temple provided a venue for courses of lectures by Thomas Starkie and John Austin. But as yet, the demand for classroom teaching in London was not sufficiently high to sustain the academic education for barristers which Amos had in mind. Aspiring barristers had little appetite for abstract learning in the lecture hall, which gave no professional advantages, and the Inner Temple’s initiative itself soon stalled.

The spur for renewed attempts to revive legal education in England in the 1840s came from Ireland. In 1839 the Dublin Law Institute was set up, to provide legal education for both branches of the profession. It obtained the financial support of the benchers of King’s Inn, and five professors were appointed.33 However, by 1842, the institute ran into financial problems after the benchers withdrew their backing. Despite stalling, this Irish initiative attracted much publicity in England, notably after Thomas Wyse MP presented a petition to Parliament from Tristram Kennedy, the founder of the Dublin Law Institute, calling for improvements in legal education. At the same time, English legal periodicals such as the Law Times and Legal Observer gave strong support for the growing movement to reform legal education, regularly printing articles critical of the legal education currently offered.34

By this time, there was a growing interest among reformers in encouraging the study of Roman law and legal history, as a way of introducing students to a wider set of principles.35 As Lord Brougham pointed out, even those students who were in the busiest pleaders’ offices ‘acquire a practical and mechanical rather than a systematic knowledge of law’.36 Brougham and his acolytes in the (p.1181)Law Amendment Society now began to argue for the establishment of a legal university in London, based on the inns of court, which would be open to all those in practice or preparing for it, whether as barristers, attorneys, advocates, or proctors.37 They also turned their attention to persuading their own inns to offer a more systematic legal education. As early as 1843, Richard Bethell encouraged the Middle Temple to look into offering lectures, and instituting compulsory examinations. By the start of 1846, this inn had set up a committee which recommended appointing a lecturers in jurisprudence and civil law, by which they meant ‘modern Roman law’. Bethell had specifically favoured such a chair ‘because it is most desirable that young men coming from the universities should enter upon the study of the law, in a philosophical manner, as the highest branch of Ethical science’.38 The committee agreed, and declared that these subjects would ‘furnish the best means of preparatory legal culture, and the formation of an enlarged and comprehensive legal mind’.39 It proposed instituting a voluntary examination, and to allow only those who had attended at least one of the courses of lectures to be called to the bar. It also expressed the hope that the other inns would offer lectures;40 and in the following July, committees from the four inns agreed to set up four more lectureships, and to refuse a call to anyone who failed to attend at least two courses.41

The Select Committee on Legal Education and its Results

At the same time that the inns were seeking to revive the provision of lectures, in philosophical as well as practical subjects, a select committee was appointed, on the initiative of Wyse, to consider improvements in legal education both in England and Ireland. Witnesses before the committee argued for an academic education for lawyers which would help cultivate a more sophisticated and learned legal culture in England. Reformers pointed to the unscientific nature of English legal literature, when compared with the treatises written by continental jurists such as Savigny or Americans such as Joseph Story. Nonetheless, there were clear obstacles in the path to reform. To begin with, in 1846, the reform movement had yet to revive the curriculum at the ancient universities. At the same time, in the decade before procedural reforms paved the way for the demise (p.1182) of the forms of action, lawyers remained convinced that the primary place to learn the law remained the practitioner’s chamber.

When the Committee reported in August, it favoured reform, stating that ‘no Legal Education, worthy of the name, is at this moment to be had’, in England or Ireland. It was critical of the fact that the education of young barristers was left too much to ‘the individual intelligence and exertion of the pupil’. Although ‘well calculated to communicate minute practical knowledge of forms and technicalities’, study in the office of a pleader or draftsman, ‘cannot be considered as a substitute for that systematic and comprehensive information, and philosophic spirit, which are the highest qualities of the Lawyer’. Similarly, the education of the young solicitor ‘though useful in training to the mechanical drudgery of the profession, is not sufficient for [its] higher and more important duties’.42The Committee was critical of the examination taken by members of the lower branch, feeling that it was too focused on technicalities and too little on general principles. It was also critical of the fact that the universities did not offer a course for the general student who did not wish to proceed to practise, but who might be ‘called on to act as Magistrate, Legislator, Administrator, with insufficient knowledge, crude ideas, and false views’.43

The Committee therefore recommended an overhaul of legal education. It felt that university undergraduates should receive some education in the history and progress of law as well as jurisprudence; and that ‘greater advantages should be attached to the Law degrees’, with some careers being limited to those who had received the degree of doctor of law.44 Since the lawyer could not learn his craft in the academy alone, those who wished to become barristers would proceed to a second stage of their education at a ‘professional Law College’ centred on the inns, with entry after ‘an examination by way of Matriculation’. Lectures would be given at each inn, which would appoint the professors and set examinations. The Committee did not lay much stress on chamber teaching, though it did suggest that some lectures might be given which could be combined with attendance in a pleader’s or draftsman’s office. Significantly, it did not suggest that attorneys be educated with barristers. In its view, the lectures the inns ‘would scarcely be appropriate and special enough for his wants’, and there would be opposition from the bar to such a joint education. Though clerks might be allowed to attend some lectures at the inns, it was felt appropriate for the Law Society to offer lectures suitable to the profession. Under its proposals, attorneys would still be trained through apprenticeships. Prior to his admission to an apprenticeship, (p.1183) the young man should be examined to show he had acquired a ‘sound general education’.45 The ‘lower branch’, which had been the driving force behind much of the movement to revive legal education in the 1830s, was hence to be excluded from proposals for an academic legal education.

The report of the Select Committee was not acted on by Parliament. Nonetheless, the inns did continue with the initiative begun by Bethell. Lecturers were appointed by each inn in 1847,46 though attendance at their lectures was voluntary. No system of examinations was instituted, though at Gray’s Inn, W. D. Lewis did set voluntary examinations for honours.47 Many reformers felt that the inns should be doing more. In 1848, the four lecturers expressed their view to the benchers that attendance at the lectures be made part of the qualification for a barrister, and that a voluntary honours examination should obtain the public sanction of the inns. The Law Amendment Society was also critical of the efforts of the inns, and continued to urge the establishment of a law school, with students being offered a general series of lectures, as well as being given classes by barristers, pleaders, and conveyancers in their chambers.48 In 1851, Bethell once more persuaded his inn to set up a committee to consider his proposal for a united scheme of legal education at the inns; and as a result of this, a joint committee of the four inns was set up which reported in February 1852. It proposed setting up a Council of Legal Education composed of benchers from each inn, which would supervise the legal education of would-be barristers. Five Readers were appointed, one by each inn, and one jointly, to teach Constitutional Law and Legal History.49 Henceforth, a call to the bar was to be conditional on attending the lectures of two of the Readers for a full year, or passing a public examination. Awards would be given to those who had distinguished themselves in the examination. However, to the disappointment of many reformers, there was to be no compulsory examination.

If the creation of the Council of Legal Education was a significant breakthrough, the legal education it instituted remained a long way from perfect. Henry Maine, who was appointed Reader in jurisprudence and common law, bemoaned the lack of system in this education. As he pointed out in 1854, there(p.1184) were no rules prescribing the order in which students were to take up the different subjects. ‘They look upon these new arrangements as so many onerous conditions imposed on the Call to the Bar’, he said, ‘they give themselves the minimum of time for satisfying them, and thus, when they do come into contact with the system, they are too late to avail themselves of its full advantages’.50Though the Readers offered private classes, they did not attract large numbers of students, whose time was taken in chambers.

In 1854, a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the educational arrangements made by the inns of court. There had been criticism for some time that the inns were wealthy institutions which had lost sight of their original function as educators. Instead of being taught, students were said merely to be subsidizing the benchers’ fine dining.51 The Commissioners accordingly investigated the revenues of the inns, to see if the money could be better spent on education; and found that there was ‘every disposition’ on the part of the benchers to render their funds available for the education of the students. There was no pot of unused gold which could be given over to legal education. But on the educational side, the inns were found wanting. The Commissioners pointed out that the traditional argument of lawyers, that a poor barrister would simply get no clients, was inappropriate in an age when many public offices were restricted to members of the bar: ‘the community is surely entitled to require some guarantee—first, for the personal character, and next for the professional qualifications of the individuals called to the bar’.52 The English system of educating lawyers compared woefully with that of continental Europe. They were especially troubled by the absence of any examination prior to the call. The Commissioners proposed uniting the inns into a university which would conduct examinations and confer degrees. Those who did not have a prior university degree would be required to take an admission examination.53 In 1856, the Council of Legal Education agreed that a compulsory examination should be instituted, but this proposal was rejected by the benchers.54 Three years later, a committee appointed by the four inns once more recommended a compulsory examination. However, in light of disagreement among the benchers of the different inns, the proposal was not implemented.55 (p.1185) Reform of legal education was deferred once more, thanks to the conservatism of the benchers.

Mid-century attempts to revive university law teaching also faltered. In 1850, a school of jurisprudence and history was set up in Oxford, while in 1854 Cambridge set up a new board of studies in law, offering an LLB degree with honours.56 In an age of university reform, there were some signs that a reformed law degree might become part of the education of the gentleman and a foundation for those wishing to enter practice. However, since the bar continued to regard what happened at the universities as unrelated to their activities, and since a law degree from a university was not a prerequisite for admission to the inns, these degrees were not taken up with any enthusiasm. As one periodical put it, ‘nine out of ten students who intend to become lawyers have the good sense to postpone the study of law until they have graduated’.57 The experience of London University was not much better. Amos was succeeded in his chair at University College by a number of minor figures, while Austin’s chair was only intermittently filled, generally by one of the few University College men who had excelled in the law examinations.58 Only a small handful graduated in law each year from the college.59 At King’s College, Park’s chair was filled until 1849, after which the college appointed a committee to investigate why the law course was such a failure.60 King’s also set up a chair in International Law in 1848, but this chair also fell into decline, after its holder, Travers Twiss, moved to Oxford.61 There were also efforts after 1846 to create a scholarly form of professional legal education at Queen’s College, Birmingham. But by the late 1850s, the education offered here was aimed more at the practical needs of the articled clerk, and by the mid-1860s, the college’s law department had disappeared.62

(p.1186) 2. 1860–1914


For 60 years after the Inns of Court Commission there was an ongoing debate about the professional education of lawyers, punctuated by proposals to give it a more ‘scientific’ basis.63 Scarcely anyone disputed the need for an apprenticeship of several years acquiring the practical skills of the trade, though some ardent advocates of chambers education for barristers ignored the inconvenient fact that it was not actually prescribed for them: indeed Bethell had been moved to call for a written examination on learning that a head of chambers was prepared to certify the fitness of a pupil he had met only once—at the Derby.64 The disputes were over whether in addition to this, the apprentice should be taught law ‘on scientific principles’. Only thus, it was argued, could English law be developed as a science and catch up with continental countries and the United States.65 The publication of Austin’s lectures and Maine’s Ancient Law put broad jurisprudential and historical perspectives firmly back on the agenda66 and the revival of law teaching at the universities, however limited in scope and popularity, produced a select body of eminent scholars.67

Not everyone agreed that English law did or could (unless codified) possess a scientific character, feeling that the student could only follow Tennyson’s Leolin in

Mastering the lawless science of our law,

That codeless myriad of precedent,

That wilderness of single instances,

Through which a few, by wit or fortune led,

May beat a pathway out to wealth and fame.68

No lectures could guide through that labyrinth nor examination test proficiency. It was, however, becoming a less tenable position as a new generation of textbooks (p.1187) reduced even the jungles of criminal law and torts to a semblance of principled coherence.69

Questions of what students should learn, however, remained inextricably mixed with severely practical ones. Where should this teaching take place? Should it remain within the walls of the inns and the Law Society, or should part or all of it be given at the universities or at some new institution? And if the latter, what measure of control should the professional bodies have over the syllabus, teaching and examination? If only ‘theoretical’ subjects were suitable for a university, which were the ‘theoretical’ ones and which the ‘practical’? Was that a real distinction or was the difference merely in how they were taught?70 And was the same education appropriate for solicitors and barristers?: should the educational apartheid be perpetuated? And what provision ought to be made for the amateur, the ‘pheasant shooter’ who wanted a smattering of law to assist him as a JP or MP and to gratify himself with the title of barrister at law?71

Given the complexity of the subject and the number and strength of the vested interests engaged, it is not surprising that there was no clear resolution. In terms of structural changes the reformers were on the whole unsuccessful. Barristers and solicitors continued to be educated separately; their education continued to be controlled by their professional bodies even when it was in reality undertaken by crammers; the universities’ role remained peripheral and the dominant ethos both at the bar and among solicitors was still essentially a practical and pragmatic one.72 Yet there were changes. The inns had to accept compulsory examinations; university law studies entitled law graduates to exemptions, albeit small and grudging ones; perhaps the syllabuses even of ‘practical’ subjects became rather more systematic and ‘scientific’. But few leading scholars would have shared Holdsworth’s view that English legal education could hardly have been improved.73

(p.1188) A ‘General School of Law’

The most ambitious of the schemes to reconstruct legal education was Roundell Palmer’s, and the vehicle was the Legal Education Association, formed by a small group of provincial solicitors who aspired to create a common initial stage of education for both legal professions.74 Their organization was in place by 1867, but only assumed centre stage in 1870, when Palmer outlined its programme and progress.75

Palmer claimed a formidable range of supporters. Several judges lent their countenance76 and he produced a petition signed by 18 QCs and more than 400 barristers.77 Though the Law Society council was unfavourable, the membership forced it into line with the welcoming stance of the MPLA and sundry local law societies,78 and while the senate of London University demurred to the proposed award of degrees, Oxford and Cambridge were in favour.79 Palmer had even persuaded the benchers of the Inner Temple and Gray’s to endorse the principle80 although his plans were calculated ‘to effect a complete revolution in the study of jurisprudence in England’.81 Unlike earlier proposals, Palmer’s ‘National School or University of Law’ would not be confined to the bar but would open its doors to would-be solicitors and those with no professional aspirations. It would deliver a legal education upon a ‘broad and liberal’ plan to match what was offered in Germany and other continental nations.82 It would not only provide the teaching but would set and administer compulsory examinations which would be the only route into either legal profession. It would be governed by a senate drawn from all the main constituencies, and while it would eventually be financed by the fees (p.1189) of the students, the inns would be asked for some initial funding.83 True, Palmer had to admit that a committee of the inns (‘by a small majority’) had reported against it,84 but a scheme so strongly supported and so much in keeping with developments in other professions seemed to have every chance of success.

And yet nothing came of it. Despite the backing of Lord Chancellor Hatherley, the Liberal government declined to support it85 and in 1872 resolutions were defeated in the Commons in a debate so monopolized by lawyers as to indicate apathy among laymen.86 When Palmer became Lord Chancellor he was too preoccupied with the Judicature Bill to renew the attempt and when under the Conservative government he did introduce bills they failed to progress. Lacking government backing and with barrister supporters defecting, Selborne eventually abandoned the project.87

He ruefully attributed his failure to three causes.88 In ascending order of importance they were; first, the hostility of London University and its law teaching colleges to this ‘monster establishment’, which threatened to eclipse their puny efforts;89 secondly, the ‘suspicious conservatism of the inns of court’, whose benchers were indisposed to transfer any powers even to a body solely comprising their own members, much less to any outsiders;90 the third, (a particular manifestation of the second), was a rooted objection to any combined education with solicitors. The justification was that most articled clerks would be several years younger than bar students and would not be ‘varsity men’. This gulf(p.1190) in education would make it impossible to teach them together. There were also fears that the clerks would ‘swamp’ the bar students by sheer numbers, and of course social snobbery underlay some of the objections.91 A common education was also suspected of being a stalking horse for fusion of the professions, and though Selborne repeatedly and vehemently repudiated that aim, opponents did not scruple to play upon such fears.92

All this was true, but a fourth, crucial factor was the attitude of Lord Cairns, since only the bipartisan collaboration between the two Lord Chancellors had made the Judicature Acts possible. Selborne had thought Cairns ‘favourable to the principle, though cautious in pressing it’,93 but it transpired that his views were far less ambitious. Cairns wanted the ‘school of law’ to be purely an examining body overseeing education provided by others, arguing that as a teaching institution it would either fail to get started through lack of funds or, if successful, would annihilate others, particularly the inns.94Moreover, while Selborne wanted to turn the inns into corporations, democratize them, and unite them under a single governing body, Cairns was content with something along the lines of the Oxbridge reforms, concerned only to ensure that neither individually nor collectively could they renege on their educational obligations and that the machinery for disciplining errant barristers was satisfactory.95 In pursuit of this limited aim he made concession after concession,96 at length extracting their reluctant consent to a bill creating a council composed only of barristers and a handful of crown appointees, but even that bill was mysteriously abandoned.97 Against all expectations, the inns had fought off the threat to their autonomy as well as the indignity of being yoked to the inferior branch in teaching and examinations.

There was, however, a price to be paid. For 20 years there had been a stand-off within the inns between the advocates of compulsory examinations and their (p.1191) opponents. The latter included not only notorious reactionaries but luminaries such as Coleridge, who thought any attempt to teach English law by lectures was delusory, and Jessel, and they suffered a ‘death-bed conversion’ only when faced with the greater evil of the school of law.98 The inns could now plead that their new system should be given a chance to prove itself and that, more than anything, probably saved them.99 The examinations proved no barrier to the determined student, especially once the coaches and crammers got busy, nor did the Council of Legal Education emulate the Law Society in manipulating examinations to control numbers.100 But there was one notable change. Except at Gray’s, the proportion of calls to admissions rose significantly, while admissions fell.101 The amateur element so cherished by the traditionalists was in decline and this was part of a more elusive change in the bar’s own self-image and sense of distinctiveness. For all its boasted singularities it now looked more like other professions, and in the face of emphatic declarations by both Selborne and Cairns it was no longer possible to maintain the pretence that the inns were purely private societies, immune from state interference in the performance of their public functions.102 That much at least the LEA had achieved.

Later efforts to revive the idea of a general school of law fared no better. It was vigorously urged by Lord Chief Justice Russell in the mid-1890s but he made no headway.103 One of the most forthright opponents was Lord Halsbury, who did as much as anyone to defeat a more promising initiative promoted by the Attorney-General, Sir Robert Finlay, with the support of the Law Society and occasioned by the windfall of funds from the dissolution of the last two inns of Chancery.104 Although a joint committee of the inns and the Law Society agreed on a plan for a charter, it needed only one inn to object for the proposal to fail and even if the probably spurious legal challenge to the use of Grays’ Inn funds for the purpose could be seen off, the Inner Temple, where Halsbury was highly influential and staunchly opposed any ‘system of which we know nothing’ displacing one (p.1192) responsible for a legal system which was ‘the admiration of the world’, could not be won over.105

Although this was an example of ‘conservatism triumphant’,106 it should not be assumed that the general school of law was the best way to raise the intellectual tone of the education of English lawyers through the study of principles of jurisprudence, history, and comparative law. It is not necessary to adopt Holdsworth’s rather complacent preference for adapting existing institutions107 to share Cairns’s doubts whether such a body would finance itself through student fees, since it had the extremely demanding task of providing what students wanted in order to pass their professional examinations either at a more attractive rate or on more appealing terms than its commercial or academic rivals, while also persuading enough men to subscribe to classes in the less practical subjects. C. R. Kennedy had failed ignominiously to achieve that at Queen’s College, Birmingham in the 1850s108 and though a London school would have a large pool of potential students (and teachers) to draw upon, the competitors were formidable, and most articled clerks (and many aspiring barristers) were understandably hard-headed and instrumental in seeking only the knowledge they felt professionally useful.

London University

Other initiatives emerged as by-products of a protracted series of wrangles over the future of London University and in particular of proposals for a ‘university of the professors’, an institution catering for full-time college-based students rather than what London University essentially was, an examining body for external degrees.109 While law was a peripheral subject at the old universities it was considered essential to the success of this proposal, but the enfeebled state of law teaching at University College and King’s College made the creation of a credible law faculty highly doubtful without the active participation of the Law Society and, more particularly, the inns.110 Neither was attracted by the first proposal, the ‘Albert Charter’, floated in 1884 by an ‘Association for Promoting a Teaching University for London’,111 but the better supported plan for a ‘Gresham University’ a few years later was given cautious acceptance in principle by the (p.1193) Law Society. The inns, however, disdained even to enter into discussions.112 In the event the idea of a new university was discarded in favour of a comprehensive review of the operations and structures of the existing one. Legal witnesses left the Commission in no doubt how difficult it was to persuade the inns to act co-operatively in anything113 and how jealously they would defend their monopoly of bar education, entry, and discipline. Even so, most witnesses felt that under pressure of public opinion, backed if necessary by the threat of coercion, the inns might be induced to accept the degree or certificate of the university as a test of the ‘theoretical knowledge’ in the ‘more general branches of law’ required for the bar, provided that they were given a ‘leading position’ on the body which designed syllabuses and set examinations.114

They were wrong. For once the inns did speak with one voice, and rejected out of hand the proposals made to them in those terms. And they did so with impunity, for the Commissioners’ threat that ‘other steps’ might be necessary to secure their co-operation carried no real menace while Halsbury was on the Woolsack and the bar so strongly represented in Parliament.115

A further attempt to link the professional schools and London University came in 1910 in the course of yet another attempt to rationalize the university’s tangled constitution.116 This Commission was chaired by Haldane and the parts dealing with law studies clearly bear the imprint of his thinking.117Haldane did not even waste time taking evidence from the inns,118 and his questioning of Law Society witnesses was mostly directed at persuading them to explore the possibility of establishing an ‘organic connection’ which would infuse something of the ‘university spirit’ into their students.119 He had little success, and there was equally strong resistance to the universities’ attempts to secure exemptions from (p.1194) professional examinations for subjects in which their syllabuses and questions were essentially similar.120

The report did break new ground121 by departing from the insistence of Selborne and his followers that the way to escape the obsessive focus on ‘practical training’ was to integrate the philosophical and the practical in one course of study. Rather it espoused functional specialization, accepting Barrington’s view that ‘it is not the business of the university to turn out practising barristers or solicitors’.122University law study would ideally be postgraduate, taught outside the hours articled clerks and pupils would be spending in chambers. But though the report invited the inns to ‘carefully consider’ reviewing their approach to bar training, it must be doubted whether the chairman held much hope that they would.123

As for law at London University, since it was inadequately manned and funded to form a faculty, it was recommended that it be concentrated on one site, preferably King’s College.124 For the near future at least, most students would still be taking the external degree;125 all teaching would take place in the evening, and the professional bodies would still exercise a sway over the syllabus and teaching through their powerful representation on senate.126

(p.1195) Professional Education for Barristers

The Council for Legal Education set up by the inns in 1852 to create a uniform system for the legal education of students before admission to the bar hardly lived up to its high-sounding title.127Comprising two men from each inn, serving for two years, it was for a long time either supine or ineffectual. The Inns of Court Commission highlighted glaring weaknesses in the teaching the Council administered, and it had not been allowed to implement its crucial recommendation for compulsory examinations.128 Its want of authority made the inns vulnerable to Cairns’s demands for structural reform129 and only heavy criticism in the late 1880s roused it from lethargy. Two influential and enterprising members, Nathaniel Lindley and J. C. Mathew, led the way, and although the Middle Temple vetoed a modest proposal for a few outsiders on the council, Lindley secured its enlargement to 20 members, with a high-powered board of studies in support, and an expansion of the range of teaching,130 though even after the addition of a director of studies as a sort of ‘dean of the faculty’ in 1905,131 it still had no authority to impose major changes.

In 1872 the inns had agreed to institute a preliminary examination akin to the Law Society’s.132 Being limited to non-matriculates, relatively few had to sit it and the high failure rate at first attempt suggests that some had not taken it seriously,133 since it was later described as ‘absurdly simple’;134 indeed by 1910 it was said to have become farcical, and the CLE successfully pressed for its replacement by prescriptive external qualifications.135

The revised scheme of 1873 for teaching law to bar students looked good on paper. The new lecturers would, it was hoped, be younger and would also undertake small group teaching.136 Appointed for only three years, they would have the incentive of an attendance-related payment, while scholarships for proficiency (p.1196) (albeit only in Roman Law and Jurisprudence) would give a similar incentive to students.137 As Cairns had wished,138 the examinations were not too demanding, and though the failure rate was initially considerable—attributed by one commentator to university men arrogantly attempting to pass without serious study—it soon fell.139

Having secured the goal of a compulsory examination, the CLE lapsed into a complacency from which it was only aroused in 1889, when a committee of Lincoln’s Inn issued a damning report.140 Since 1873 ‘the system of Education has gradually been undergoing alteration for the worse, until it has been brought into a condition which is deplorable, and we feel bound to add is unworthy of the Inns of Court’.141 Three well-paid lecturers delivered the bare minimum of lectures, and while one of the pair who shared the fourth lectureship discoursed amply on Roman Law, the other had to cover Public and Private International Law, Constitutional Law, Legal History, and Jurisprudence in the same allotted 18 hours.142 None supplemented their lectures with smaller classes,143 and most made no attempt to relate their course to the examinations.144 Not surprisingly, most students, though contributing six guineas towards their cost, deserted them, attendances falling by between 6 and 8 per cent.145 Instead they resorted to the crammers, who ‘impart for a small fee, as nearly as may be, the exact amount of information which is required for a pass, and neither more nor less’.146

Fortuitously, the proposals for a ‘Gresham charter’ revived anxieties about outside intervention and although the reformers on the Council did not get all they wanted, they did secure major changes in the educational structure. The examination was divided into two parts. The first, taken at any time after admission, comprised Roman Law, Constitutional Law, and Legal History; Criminal Law and Procedure; and Real Property and Conveyancing.147 Part Two, taken (p.1197) only after at least six terms had been kept, comprised papers in Common Law, Equity, Evidence, and Civil Procedure, and a general paper drawn from all these subjects.

The Law Times asserted that the inclusion of teachers among the examiners would make the examinations a farce,148 but in fact the failure rate was well above the former level, stabilizing at around 30 per cent from 1908 until a sharp rise to over 40 per cent in 1913.149 This is curious, for the questions were essentially tests of memory.150 Contemporaries regarded bar examinations as easier than the Law Society’s finals151 and Oxford and Cambridge professors insisted that they were not on par with their own—hence their indignation that, with the grudging exception of Roman Law, the inns would not exempt candidates from subjects passed at university.152

The basis of the teaching was still lectures,153 and by 1914 the lecturers (all part-time) included some very gifted men and others with great experience.154 Attendance was not compulsory, but most men found it prudent because it was known that the examinations would be based upon the lectures.155Nevertheless, it was still possible to succeed by a burst of intensive private study, with or without a coach.156

(p.1198) Professional Education for Solicitors

A preliminary examination was introduced by the Solicitors Act 1860 following pressure from the MPLA.157 It sought to ensure that candidates had a sound general education, initially testing them in Latin, French, English, History, Geography, and Arithmetic.158 For those who complacently believed that the educational (and with it, the social) standard of the profession had reached a gratifyingly respectable level, the early results came as a rude shock.159 Moreover, the failure rate would probably have been higher but for Chief Baron Kelly’s indiscriminate granting of exemptions in ‘special circumstances’.160 So impervious was he to complaints that the Law Society resorted to legislation shortly before his resignation, though in the event the judges readily yielded control over exemptions to the Society and after that the backdoor to qualification was seldom opened.161

Before long, however, and despite a noticeable increase in the failure rate, there were demands for a higher standard.162 The difficulty with that, however, was that statute granted entry through alternative qualifications, some of which, particularly the Oxford and Cambridge locals, were reckoned unduly easy.163 Eventually the Law Society, having satisfied itself that this was so,164 began the process of securing the repeal of the least demanding exemptions, something not accomplished until 1922.165

At the same time as the preliminary, an intermediate examination was introduced, whose only real purpose seems to have been to ensure that articled clerks acquired some substantive legal knowledge during their term. From 1895 university law degrees afforded exemption166 and until 1901 it could not be taken until the halfway stage in articles, thereafter after one year. It was a rather sterile affair.(p.1199) Candidates had to answer 30 questions based entirely on Stephen’s Commentaries, which was ideal material for the crammers,167 and until the 1880s pass rates were very high. However, it became measurably stiffer, helped by the enlargement of the syllabus in 1904,168 and with a further infusion of rigour in 1908 pass rates dropped into the low 60s.169 In addition, there was an examination in accounts and book-keeping, but this was dropped in 1871 and not reinstated until 1906 (presumably as part of the Law Society’s measures against solicitor defalcations). Unsurprisingly, it too had a high failure rate.170

The syllabus for the final examination changed little and important new areas such as company law and revenue law found no place. Four papers spread over two days and comprising 60 questions in all covered property and conveyancing; equity; common law; and an unsatisfactory miscellany of criminal justice, probate, divorce, Admiralty, and ecclesiastical law.171 Once the Law Society had won control of the syllabus and the examinations in 1877 there was no room for ‘theoretical’ subjects and the questions continued to be of a severely practical kind.172 A candidate did not need to pass each subject,173 but his task evidently became harder, for the pass rate dropped back into the 70s during the 1880s, then into the 60s from 1900, remaining obstinately within that decile despite the best efforts of crammers and Law Society teachers alike.174

The Law Society faced a particular difficulty in meeting the needs of articled clerks both in London and the provinces. One president later claimed that ‘in my time it was considered to be a reflection upon a man if he got assistance to pass his final examinations’,175 but even though the examination was eminently passable, by 1860 there were many candidates with little faith in the Society’s lectures. ‘Crammers’ came forward to meet the need176 and while the establishment might deplore this ‘baneful system’,177 it posed a dilemma for the Society. On the (p.1200) one hand it was unwilling to quit the teaching field—especially while pocketing £10,000 a year in examination fees—but on the other ‘subsidized teaching’178 could not compete effectively with the narrowly focused utilitarian service provided by the crammers.179

At length, and to the incredulity of observers, the Society conceded defeat, abandoned its lectures, and offered instead a correspondence course with limited tutorial assistance.180 It was forced into an undignified retreat by a protest from articled clerks and reinstated lectures,181 but it was not until it created a ‘College of Law’ in 1903, that it offered the sort of preparation the examinees wanted. Under the direction of Edward Jenks the College appointed suitable teachers and its well-populated classrooms were a marked contrast to earlier lectures.182 However, with the examination becoming more demanding the crammers were not ousted, for they were able to concentrate on the revision stage while the College classes spanned the clerks’ final year.183 Clerks who attended the College and the best crammers received a sound grounding, but there was no longer any serious attempt to provide a broader legal education; for that they must attend College classes which prepared men for the London University LL.B.184

(p.1201) The problem for provincial clerks, particularly those who did not spend their final year in London, was getting any useful tuition at all. From the outset some large local law societies, such as Manchester, arranged lectures, but these often had the same defects (from the students’ viewpoint) as the London ones.185 In Liverpool, for example, Bryce and Dicey failed to attract an audience,186 nor did those hired by the Birmingham Law Society at the urging of the articled clerks.187

Once it controlled examinations and collected fees, it became impossible for the Law Society wholly to ignore the needs of the provinces, but it was not feasible to establish a nationwide network of classes.188 Instead, a series of local arrangements emerged, with varying amounts of financial support from London.189 The Society’s favoured option was boards of studies along the lines pioneered in Yorkshire,190 but in many places grants had to be given to a local society. The Society had to accept that much of the teaching would be provided by the new universities and university colleges, though it much preferred arrangements which gave the profession influence, if not control, rather than having to trust the dons as at Manchester.191 By 1910 more than £10,000 per annum was being distributed and more than 400 students were enrolled192 and with further university expansion envisaged, a Law Society president could even contemplate making attendance at classes a requirement for the examination.193

3. Legal Periodicals


It seems probable that legal periodicals played a significant part in imparting law, and more particularly, lawyers’ values, to the profession, and yet it has recently (p.1202) been remarked that ‘English legal historians have paid curiously little attention to the legal periodical’.194 Curious indeed, since while until the late 1820s they were few and ephemeral, thereafter they were begun with increasing frequency, reaching a peak in the 1840s when no fewer than 12 new ones were launched.195The failure rate continued to be very high, but The Law Magazine, or Quarterly Journal of Jurisprudence (1828) was the first of at least 10 which survived for more than a decade.196 The legal periodical became woven into the fabric of Victorian legal culture, but while some scholars, beginning with Abel-Smith and Stevens in the 1960s, have mined this rich source with productive results, its very volume, particularly in the weeklies, remains a deterrent.197

Of course, the growth of legal periodicals was not an isolated phenomenon. Beginning almost with the new century, serial publications of general interest, from the high culture quarterly reviews which began with the Edinburgh and the Quarterly to less sophisticated and ‘highbrow’ serials, along with proceedings of learned societies and commercial magazines aimed at particular professions and trades proliferated. The phenomenon was fuelled on the demand side by rising numbers of literate men and women with enough money to buy or (better from the publishers’ viewpoint) subscribe, and on the supply side by advances in printing technology and business organization, improvements in postal services and transport and relief from taxes on advertisements and paper and from stamp duty. Nevertheless, despite the advances in communications, periodical publishing remained an almost exclusively metropolitan business.198

(p.1203) The legal periodicals of the period have been conveniently classified as three distinct types, albeit with inevitable overlaps: the discursive, ‘with lengthy essays and commonly a transparent political voice’; the informational, ‘designed to disseminate useful information to the legal profession generally or to some specific branch of it’; and the pedagogic, aimed at law students.199

The Discursive Journals

It is probably no coincidence that two quarterlies of the first sort were launched in the late 1820s, for besides the more general context, developments within the law itself—the intellectual stimulus of Bentham’s writings and the political impact of controversies over the courts, particularly Chancery, brought together in Brougham’s famous law reform speech—seemed to make the times particularly propitious. The earlier, The Jurist, claimed to ‘embrace the science of jurisprudence in its widest extent’ but with a distinctly Benthamite stance. Under the aegis of Joseph Parkes and Sutton Sharpe it offered a scholarly mix of articles on the laws of European countries; printed James Humphrey’s lectures and commented at length on those of John Austin and J. J. Park; it also treated extensively of the current issues in law reform.200 ‘Its style was that of the heavyweight quarterly, its content was intellectually robust, and its political stance was unmistakable.’201 Unfortunately for its prospects, however, such a combination was too far removed from the immediate concerns of most lawyers (a more professionally oriented journal dismissed it as offering ‘speculative opinions, forming a mere bundle of essays’202) and yet too narrowly ‘legal’ to find a general readership. The Jurist lasted only five years.

Its rival, The Law Magazine, despite its sub-title, struck a better balance for a lawyer audience. Its first editor, Abraham Hayward, had strong scholarly credentials and a pungent style of his own.203 He shrewdly leavened the more scholarly and speculative pieces with features of a less elevated character, drawing on the bar to rework their counsel’s opinions into articles, offering a ‘necrology’ and a(p.1204) selection of biographies of famous lawyers of the recent past, a selection of legal gossip (‘Notes of the Quarter’) and a substantial digest of recent case law.

Although the mixture of the loftily theoretical and the sometimes narrow and pedestrian makes some issues read oddly, The Law Magazine succeeded where The Jurist went under.204 It survived the advent of a serious rival in The Law Review (‘a Quarterly Journal of British and Foreign Jurisprudence’) which emerged in 1844 and which, though smaller, covered much of the same ground. The Law Review became the mouthpiece of the Law Amendment Society, but while this focus on law reform gave it a greater coherence than its rival, it also limited its appeal among a largely conservative profession.205 It ‘gradually languished’ and in 1856 was absorbed by the older journal, although its name survived and enough of the reformist stance to enable the retitled Law Magazine and [Law] Review to boast that ‘it has been the principal advocate in the Press of such well-considered Law Reform as has commended itself to the great bulk of the profession…at times it has been almost the only advocate’.206 It would be 30 years before the Law Magazine had another serious competitor, justifying the view ‘that there was a market for the intelligent Law review is undoubted; but it was also a seemingly inelastic one’.207 It was probably a precariously small one too, to judge from the fact that in 1873 the Law Magazine converted to monthly issues in an attempt to offer more coverage of matters of current interest. It continued to hold itself out as the promoter of law reform and promised to continue popular features such as legal biographies. Noting the publication of similar journals in other UK and common law jurisdictions, it also offered ‘such topics of interest to the profession as affect Scotland, Ireland and our Colonies’, along with coverage of the United States and European countries.208

The new format was seemingly a failure, for within a few years the journal reverted to quarterly publication. In this form it survived for the rest of its existence without substantial changes, though with its contributors no longer anonymous209 and its editors’ names disclosed.210 Alongside notes of recent cases, regular features included a review of the annual judicial statistics and notes on international law cases. There was a strong representation of international and (p.1205) foreign law, legal history and education and current controversies. Thus among the 29 articles in the volume for 1900–1 were ones on Australia, Malaya, India, and France, as well as three on international or comparative law. Just nine were on substantive English law, and the only one of those which was really arcane was on Seamen’s Advance Notes.211 The last peacetime volume contained a similar mixture, though the number was reduced to 24. That reduction is one of several pointers to its declining fortunes, along with the absence of illustrious names among its contributors and a high turnover of publishers, the last of whom, Jordans, put an end to its long existence in 1915.212

One probable cause of its demise was competition from the Law Quarterly Review, which began in 1885.213 Although Frederick Pollock, its editor until 1919, took pleasure in retorting to critics of its academic content (‘very scientific, no doubt, but atrociously dull’ is one example214) that it was edited and published in the heart of legal London, it originated at All Souls and the moving spirits, along with Pollock, were the Oxonians Sir William Markby, Sir William Anson, and Sir T. E. Holland.215 Moreover, Pollock himself rightly claimed that it did something to pave the way for the Harvard Law Review(1887). Unlike the Harvard, however, the Law Quarterly Review did not inspire a flood of imitators, and it was not until 1921 that the Cambridge Law Journal became the next of the kind.216 Its solitary splendour may have assisted Pollock in obtaining the pick of contributors, at least after the first few years when he leaned heavily on friends, albeit distinguished ones such as the founders, Dicey, Lindley, and Vinogradoff.217

These and others (Elphinstone, Maitland, Buckland, and T. C. Williams among them) made regular appearances,218 but Pollock confessed that in early volumes he had succumbed to occasionally ‘publishing barely passable articles out of compassion for writers who have evidently been at great pains’.219

The range of articles was very extensive, though not more so than the LM & R. Legal history and public international law were very well served and readers accustomed to the much narrower spread around the time of its centenary will (p.1206) be surprised at the frequent inclusion of pieces on law reform and legal education. Pollock often contributed himself, though not perhaps his best work, but his most important contributions were the case notes which he modestly described as ‘a mere rudiment of what they have become’.220 Other journals had case notes but none so erudite; nor did others so frequently use them to urge the appeal courts to adopt a more expansive exercise of their functions in order to clarify an area of law, tidy up loose ends etc.221 Another valuable inclusion was the more systematic reviewing of major legal books.

Informational Journals

The successful launch of Edward Cox’s Law Times in 1843 and the survival in the face of that competition of The Legal Observer and The Jurist demonstrated that the market for weeklies aimed principally at solicitors could accommodate three titles, and the failure of others showed that it was three titles only. The Legal Observer was the oldest of these, founded by Robert Maugham in 1830. Since Maugham was also the secretary of the ILS it is hardly surprising that the Legal Observer became ‘the mouthpiece of the council’222 nor, for all that Maugham used it to urge provincial solicitors to join the Society, that the Legal Observer promoted the interests of the metropolitan elite. As such, it favoured a ‘cautious incrementalism’223 in law reform, opposing the devolution of business to local courts while advocating the abolition of the church courts to bring extra business to London solicitors.

The Jurist started up in 1838. Less well known, nowadays at any rate, than its rivals, it emphasized its case reporting service, but promised also information ‘in a popular form’ on conveyancing, pleading, practice, and evidence, while ‘sometimes evils complained of, and the remedies suggested for their reform, will be considered’. Bankruptcies and other prosaic but necessary information, would also feature.224 Before long the reports were hived off into a separate volume and for most subscribers they may have been the main attraction of the subscription.

The Law Times was one of the many publishing ventures of a remarkable man, Edward William Cox, ‘barrister journalist scientist thinker entrepreneur and, (p.1207) in general, alert man of affairs’.225Cox had promised that his magazine would be ‘a purely practical one, and that it will not contain essays on abstract or speculative subjects; the publication we want is one which will teach us law and protect the interests of the profession’.226 In fact he found that his readers were even more narrowly focused than he had imagined and speedily dropped practically all extraneous matter to produce a weekly which offered brief case notes, short articles on aspects of English law and practice, current news, and coverage of financial and property matters of direct relevance to his target audience.227 And that audience was mainly ‘the disgruntled rural attorney’;228 early on, subscribers numbered 1313 country solicitors against 191 London solicitors and just 43 barristers.229 Nevertheless, he did not neglect to defend the interests of the junior bar at a time when its prospects seemed lean. Cox’s own journalism was trenchant, offering ‘pithy brevity rather than intelligent discussion’,230 and he was forthright and pugnacious in presenting his editorial view, not least on his particular interest, legal education. This style evidently went down well, as did the larger, newspaper-style format, for he got the subscribers above 2000, enough to attract advertisements in sufficient quantity to turn a profit, a rarity among legal periodicals since ‘the economics of production were loaded against publishing success’.231

Until 1854 the Law Times and Legal Observer enjoyed a ‘cosy relationship’,232 but that was destroyed when plans were announced to relaunch the latter as The Solicitors Journal in open rivalry to the Law Times and to do so, moreover, in what Cox regarded as the cowardly guise of a limited company, the Law Newspaper Company Ltd.233 The Law Times was accused—not without justification—of favouring the bar and the provincial solicitors over their London counterparts and the new magazine aspired to emphasize the common interests which united, rather than the differences which divided, the profession.234 An incensed Cox claimed that the MPLA, from which this scheme originated, had been infiltrated by London agency firms (he targeted particularly W. S. Cookson) and that they (p.1208)would use the new weekly as a stalking horse to press the currently controversial proposals for title registration.235 Whatever the truth of Cox’s claim, it resulted in bitter exchanges in the respective journals and drove him to improve his own, and its associated reports. Whether though heightened competition or its own weaknesses, it was not many years before the Law Newspaper Company foundered. That was a triumph for Cox, but a heavily qualified one, for under new management The Solicitors Journal held its own and the rivalry between the owners ceased to be expressed through the editorial columns.236

In any case, before long they had a new rival to confront. In 1866 The Jurist disappeared, only to be replaced by The Law Journal, which rather modestly described itself as ‘a weekly publication of Notes of Cases and Legal News’.237 It was perhaps an attempt to enhance the appeal of the long-running Law Journal Reports in the face of the threat from the newly founded Incorporated Council for Law Reporting,238 and evidently found a readership, as for almost a century these three publications would share the market for weekly legal papers, and despite differences in form, their coverage was in many respects similar.239 As earlier, others made unsuccessful attempts to establish themselves.240Perhaps the most promising was the Law Gazette (1890). It aspired ‘to represent the profession as a whole… and to combine the two essential points of cheapness and excellence’. It would offer ‘carefully written articles on important legal questions from the pens of leading members of both branches and would include a ‘law students gazette’, all within 12 pages.241 Retailing at one penny, it certainly achieved one essential, and the early numbers included some interesting material, but it lasted less than four years. Attempts to attract a bar readership with monthly issues by The Law (1874–5) andPump Court (1883–6) were also doomed to failure.

(p.1209) Alongside the journals which aimed at the profession generally were others with a more particular focus. The most successful of these, in duration at any rate, is The Justice of the Peace, founded in 1837 and is surviving still.242

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