Journal Article

First Steps Towards an English Legal Profession: The Case of the London ‘Ordinance of 1280’

Penny Tucker

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXI, issue 491, pages 361-384
Published in print April 2006 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online April 2006 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cel001
First Steps Towards an English Legal Profession: The Case of the London ‘Ordinance of 1280’

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It has for some while been thought that the city of London established a professional ‘order’ of advocates in 1280, a slightly earlier date than was the case in the central courts. Moreover, it appears that an attempt was made at the same time to set up similar ‘orders’ of the other two categories of legal representatives, attorneys and essoiners.

This article argues that the 1280 London ordinance was neither ahead of its time, where it was successful, nor successful, where it was ahead of its time. Where it may well have succeeded, in preventing legal representatives trying to discharge more than one function in any given case, it enforced an important but well-established principle of law. Where it probably failed, in creating distinct ‘orders’ of legal representatives with monopolies on practise for members, it did so because other ways were found of ensuring that legal representatives working in the city's courts were competent and conducted themselves properly.

And yet, ironically, London does appear to have been the first English lay jurisdiction formally to admit men to work as attorneys and as pleaders (middle-ranking advocates), in the mid fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries respectively. Little though London may have contributed to the development of the English legal profession in 1280, therefore, it did nevertheless eventually help to point the way towards the modern profession.

Journal Article.  13471 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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