« PreviousContinue »
Inns of Court lectures, in competition with such a body, even if it were established. In both particulars Lord Selborne, we should suppose, takes the opposite view. He expressly proposes to exhaust the capacity of the Inns of Court as a teaching body, and he has dwelt far more powerfully on the advantages of the school in teaching law than in testing the qualifications of lawyers.
Our own opinion would be in favour of confining the new school to the function of teaching every variety of legal knowledge to all comers. Lord Cairns' difficulty about funds would not arise, for a most efficient school could be maintained for £10,000 a year, and we believe from Lord Selborne's figures that the different Societies would find no trouble in supplying that sum. The Inns of Court would be relieved from teaching, but would be empowered and required to test the fitness of candidates under a standard supplied to them by public authority. The new school might be constituted, as Lord Selborne proposes, or with such modification of that scheme, as Lord Cairns suggests. Every difficulty, we believe, would be met by this arrangement. The universities would not be offended by competing degrees in law, the anomaly of qualified persons being excluded from the profession by an arbitrary rule would not exist, the danger of combining teaching with examining functions would be avoided, and all the advantages of a public school of law and of combined lectures for intending attorneys and barristers would be secured. This, we may remind Lord Selborne, is much more like the Scotch arrangements to which he referred than his own scheme is. The University of Edinburgh does not admit to the bar, nor does the Faculty of Advocates educate students. The University educates and the faculty examines and admits. On the plan now suggested the Inns of Court would examine and admit, and the school of law or any other private or public teaching body would educate.
We can conceive of only one objection to this proposal, and that is the wide-spread distrust of the Inns of Court.
Lord Selborne seems to have abandoned the idea of turning these bodies to account in education. He praises them good humouredly for their imperfect attempts, and promises not to take more money from them than he absolutely requires. The Legal Education Association, which is entitled to the greatest possible credit for its successful exertions in making the question a national and practical one, has unfortunately got itself into a position of decided antagonism to the benchers. No educational reformers will believe that these learned persons are in earnest about education, and in this, we do not say unnatural distrust, they are prepared to throw away an institution which is lying ready to their hands. We feel bound to protest against this distrust and its results. No doubt if the question had been left to the benchers, it might have slumbered till the end of the century or longer. No doubt they do not form a very good board for the superintendence of a working university. But we fail to see that they could not adequately discharge the duty of carrying out such rules respecting the qualification of members as the State, in its wisdom and power, might impose upon them. Doubtless they would never, of themselves, have thought of making such rules, but, zealous as they are of their rights and privileges, the most determined obstructive among them could not resist the right of the State to require whatever qualification it pleases in members of a privileged profession. We do not believe that the Inns of Court would fail to enforce any such regulations with firmness, strictness, and loyalty. Why go out of our way to elect a Senate of a legal university, when we have all the materials before us, already organized and already in working order? Is not the Council of Legal Education as good an examining body as any barristerial section of any new Senate is likely to be ? Why suffer four powerful Societies to exist in'a mutilated and useless connection when there is useful work for them to do? Above all, why take the trouble of incorporating and reforming these Societies if they are to do nothing but build new chambers, and look after the students' dinners ?
And this brings us to the second of Lord Selborne's proposals now embodied in the Bill which he submitted to the House of Lords. Lord Selborne invites criticism, and promises any amount of modification in this part of his programe. The chief effect of the measure is to incorporate each of the four Inns, and to introduce the principle of representation in elections to the Bench. The Bill is so arranged that the discussion of its provisions need not be hampered by any consideration of what is likely to be done with the education question. The measure is merely one of internal re-arrangement. Incorporation is the inevitable preliminary to any legislative dealing with these Societies. Lord Selborne proposes that Lincoln's Inn should have fifty benchers, the Temples forty each, and Gray's Inn twenty, exclusive of members of the Royal Family, Privy Councillors, and Judges, who, however, are to have all the rights and privileges of ordinary masters of the Bench. Vacancies are to be filled up alternately by the bench and by the practising barristers of not less than five years' standing. Who are practising barristers is to be determined by the Law List in the meantime, and afterwards by an official roll. The progress in cases of discipline is regulated by an important section of the Bill, which recent events in the profession will cause to be keenly criticized. The judges of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice are to be visitors of the different corporations, and may exercise their functions through a committee. We do not know what the feeling of the Benchers may be with reference to these proposals, but the Bar on the whole will be glad to see some such scheme introduced into Parliament next year. Lord Selborne's Bill is a very modest and cautious interference with the constitution of the Societies, and the most serious novelty it introduces is the limitation of the suffrage to practising barristers in England of five years' standing. Even the limitation of time is a thing about which a good deal might be said, but the wisdom of the restriction to practising barristers is about as clear to us as the possibility of ascertaining who practis
ing barristers are. Lord Selborne could hardly have anticipated the mere difficulty of making up a satisfactory roll. How many briefs must a man have to be a practising barrister, or how is he to prove his practice? Is the roll to be annually purged of barristers whose practise has fallen away, or who have ceased to practice ? If a colonial judge or barrister comes home, is he to find himself in the position of a disfranchised member of his Inn ? Imagine the same condition applied to any other profession-to clergymen, say, or doctors. And what after all is the danger apprehended by Lord Selborne ? That men may come up to the election of Benchers and swamp the votes of the practising barristers. Surely men who have been found worthy of admission to the profession, who are just as much as practising barristers interested in the good management of the Inn, ought not to be dealt with in this manner. We have yet to learn that the non-practising members of the profession are less worthy of the trust, or less interested in the welfare of their Societies than their more fortunate or more ambitious brethren. After all Lord Selborne would secure his end very simply by not permitting voting papers or proxies at the election. A poll would undoubtedly exclude all but barristers on the spot or men with a more than ordinary interest in the Inns. One other point of detail may be mentioned. The visitors are to be the judges of the High Court of Justice, not merely the judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature. Why should the appeal judges be excluded and the less distinguished portion of the Bench selected for the dignity of visitation ? We observe, too, that the visitors will themselves be members of the governing body of the Corporations they have to visit, an arrangement which we believe to be contrary to the soundest maxims of Corporation ethics. These, however, are mere blemishes on an excellent piece of legislative work. Lord Cairns wishes the Inns of Court to be allowed to reform themselves under a commission. We should have no objection to such a course, were it not that the delay would be intolerable, and in the end we should not be likely to get anything better than Lord Selborne now offers.
VII.-RE-ORGANIZATION OF THE CIRCUITS.
extenso, the text of the fifth (embryo) Report and Recommendations of the Judicature Commission. In the course of the Report there appears the following announcement with reference to the proposed re-organization of the Circuits,
' On this subject the report quotes, at length, an article from the Law Magazine of May, 1873." On further investigating the matter, we have been enabled to ascertain that not only does the Commission quote from the article in question, but absolutely adopts most of the suggestions it contains, and strongly recommend the proposed alterations set forth in that article for the approval of the learned judges. On receipt of this Report from the Commission, the learned judges, we are informed, held very many meetings, and the subject of the re-organization of the circuits occupied a prominent place in the deliberations, more so than any other subject involved in the Judicature Act, excepting, of course, the new rules of procedure. Day after day their lordships rose early at Westminster and Guildhall in order to attend these diurnal meetings on the subject. In the course of their sittings we are informed that many of our suggestions were received and warmly debated by their lordships. After a delay of several months, however, they succeeded in adjusting preliminary steps in connection with the Judicature Act, by the re-arrangement of the circuits, and recently the result of their collective wisdom has been printed for private circulation, and made known to a privileged few, but whether their lordships have adopted all the suggestions contained in the article mentioned we are at present unable to say, owing to the secrecy of the matter, but, for the instruction of our readers, we quote the article in question containing the suggestions.
“Considering the fact that Lancashire presented 182 cases to the judges for trial on the last circuit, and that this number is not a very unusual one, there can be little doubt that the county of Lancaster, with its three assize towns, will be made