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about half the members of the profession belong to the Incorporated Law Society, and it has been suggested in many quarters that every solicitor should be compelled to be a member. To an arrangement of this kind there is one objection of so serious a character that I think that it is fatal to the scheme-if all solicitors were compelled to belong to the Incorporated Law Society, that Society would have to be deprived of the power of expelling any member, otherwise the expulsion of any member would be equivalent to striking him off the rolls. The whole of the disciplinary powers over solicitors ought to be in the hands of the Court of which they are officers, and the mischievous and even disastrous results which have followed the establishment of the so-called Discipline Committee show of what abuse such powers are capable and how mischievous is the establishment of a secret tribunal.
It is many years since I first proposed that all solicitors should give security in a sum of at least £5,000. To this it is objected that such a sum would be but a drop in the ocean in regard to some of the more serious failures which have recently occurred, but I do not think that this is true. If any person or corporation were responsible for the honesty of a solicitor in the sum of £5,000, they would be apt to keep their eyes open, and the moment that anything unsatisfactory transpired in regard to the solicitor, matters would probably be immediately brought to a crisis instead of his financial position continuing, as has been the case in several of the recent heavy failures, an open secret in the profession, but entirely unknown to the general body of his clients. Another objection that has been made is that some young men would not be able to find security to this amount, but there are professions other than that of a solicitor which are open to them, and it is not desirable to encourage the advent into our profession of impecunious young men without resources or connections.
As to the proposed scheme for the auditing of solicitors' accounts, I believe it to be wholly impracticable. An act of Parliament might be passed requiring all solicitors to keep their accounts in certain prescribed forms and making failure to do this a misdemeanour, but no system of audit in the world could possibly discover such transactions as that which occurred a little while ago, where a sum of £40,000 was paid to a solicitor and immediately misappropriated. Whether that sum was ever entered in his books or not I do not know, but it is manifest that it would not have been had any form of audit been in force. Moreover there is another great objection, and it is this. Frequently (and generally in matters connected with ladies or illegitimate children) payments have to be made of the most private nature, and it would be wholly out of the question that entries relating to such payments should be produced for inspection to an accountant's clerk.
The present method of payment of solicitors must be altered in the near future. The ridiculous incompetence of the Council of the Incorporated Law Society has allowed the profession to be tied to a scheme of charges in conveyancing matters which amount to only a fraction of the charges which house agents are able to recover as customary in the Courts of Law. These men are not professional men at all, anyone can take out a license to carry on their business, and yet they are allowed to charge for identical work many times the amount which a solicitor who has been trained at a great expenditure of time and money can ask for. This one thing by itself is sufficient to utterly condemn the Council of the Incorporated Law Society. As a body, it does no real good to those whose money it takes and whose interests it is supposed to safeguard. The principle, moreover, of payment by lump sums for certain business instead of by petty little additions of 35. 6d. for letters and ios. for attendances ought to
be insisted on. Under the system which exists at present (in everything except conveyancing and cases in the Commercial Courts) the knave and the fool often make much more money out of a business than a capable and honest man can make in the same matter.
The existing method of carrying on Chancery business also calls loudly for reform. In taking accounts or doing other detailed business in chambers before the Masters of the Chancery Division the practice is to take an appointment, generally a fortnight or three weeks off, for one or two hours. At the end of the appointment the business is proceeded with no further, and the next vacant appointment, again at an interval of a fortnight or three weeks, is given to the solicitors concerned, and in this way work which could be finished in two days goes on for months to the loss and vexation of the client. One or two more Masters in Chancery may perhaps be necessary, but it is absolutely essential to the proper carrying on of the work that appointments of this kind should be proceeded with de die in diem until the business is completed.
• To conclude as I began, the one great reform which is needed is the alteration of the existing system of voting for the Council. The present Council have shown themselves to be hopelessly incompetent. There have been more cases than one of dishonesty among members of the Council in the last twenty years. We ought to make a clean sweep of the present Council, and then reforms will be speedily put forward and duly carried.
A. H. HASTIE.
II.-NOTES ON THE EARLY HISTORY OF
LEGAL STUDIES IN ENGLAND.*
(Continued from page 173 )
ITH the assistance of Sir Nicholas Bacon and the
Black Books of Lincoln's Inn I have endeavoured to present a picture of the Inns of Court at the close of the reign of Henry VIII. Together with the nine Inns of Chancery, the four Inns of Court formed, as Stow says, a whole university as it were of students, practisers, pleaders, and judges of the laws of the realm, not living of common stipends, as in other universities it was for the most part done, but of their own private maintenance, as being altogether fed either by their places or practice or otherwise by their proper revenues or exhibition of parents or friends. The Inns of Court were, he says, replenished partly with young students and partly with graduates and practisers of the law; but the Inns of Chancery, being provinces subjected to the Inns of Court, were chiefly filled with officers, attorneys, solicitors and clerks that followed the Courts of King's Bench and Common Pleas; yet they wanted not some others, being young students that came thither from one of the universities or sometimes immediately from grammar schools; and these having performed the exercises of their own houses, bolts, muots, and putting of cases, proceeded to be admitted as fellows of some of the sour Inns of Court, where continuing for the space of seven years or thereabouts, they frequented readings, mootings, boltings, and other learned exercises, whereby growing ripe in the knowledge of the laws and approved withal to be of honest conversation, they were called to the degree of Utter Barristers and so
* A paper read by Joseph Walton, Esq., Q.C., before the American Bar Association, at Buffalo, N.Y., August 29th, 1899, revised and amplified.
enabled to practise the law both in their chambers and at the bar. There were, according to Stow, reckoned to be at the four Inns of Court about 300 students, besides the Utter and Inner barristers. The readers, then the principal officers of the Inns, were persons of great consequence. During the readings, which continued for three weeks and three days in each of the learning vacations, Lent and Autumn, the Reader kept a constant and splendid table, feasting the nobility, judges, bishops, principal officers of State, and sometimes the King himself. In fine, these Inns of Court and Chancery are said to have made “the most famous profession of the law that is in the world; there being so many eminent persons of such sound judgment in the knowledge of the law, and a considerable number of them the sons of gentlemen and persons of quality.” This description is perhaps somewhat highly coloured. The learning was obscure and highly technical, possessing little interest save for professional purposes. But it had the high merit of being essentially practical. All the great lawyers, Lyttelton, More, Bacon, Coke, and the rest had learned their business at the Inns of Court, and in due course had taken their share diligently and usefully in the work of teaching at the exercises and readings. In the days when printed books did not exist or were not easily accessible, a more perfect scheme for maintaining the knowledge and promoting the study of the Bar could scarcely have been devised. It is said that the Year Book of Henry VI. was printed in 1480 and Lyttelton's Tenures in 1481. As early as 1475 the library is mentioned in the Black Book of Lincoln's Inn. About 1505 John Nethersale, a Fellow of the Society, left forty marks that the Society might newly erect the library within the Inn to the increase of learning and the study of the law of England within the Inn; and upon the condi