The Formation of an Educated Elite

in The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780226077598
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226077611 | DOI:
The Formation of an Educated Elite

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Universities were indispensable for the development of the legal profession during the Middle Ages. The university became the mother of professions in the strict sense of the term. Securing a proper legal education was a formidable task. Walter of Châtillon compared it to scaling a lofty mountain. Mastery of its language, procedures, and substantive content required a substantial investment of time and money, as well as the expenditure of a great deal of hard intellectual labor. University training in law, especially when crowned by the award of prestigious academic degrees, such as doctor of laws or doctor of decrees, provided the successful student with institutional certification of his technical competence. Lawyers trained and certified by a university differed from those in earlier generations. Men who studied law before the start of the thirteenth century typically heard lectures in the schools of a few private teachers who worked independently of one another. This chapter discusses law schools and universities and describes the canon law curriculum in law schools during the period.

Keywords: universities; legal profession; Middle Ages; legal education; law; lawyers; law schools; canon law; curriculum; academic degrees

Chapter.  28419 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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