« ForrigeFortsett »
the fault of the draftsman or of the originator of the measure, or to a compromise with the opposition. This state of things must naturally lead to further Act-spinning.
We doubt if there be five in the whole list of this year's statutes in which there is not to be found one or more blunders or flaws. And so we go on, and shall go on for ever, as it seems to us, enacting, revising, botching, patching, repealing, consolidating, amending, limiting, extending, explaining, rectifying and incorporating A dismal spectacle for us-a dreary prospect for posterity!
ART. XI.-EDUCATION FOR THE ENGLISH BAR.
A History of Education for the English Bar, with Suggestions as
to Subjects and Methods of Study; by PHILIP ANSTIE SMITH,
of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-law. Butterworths, London, THE mediocrity now. Bo noticeable at the English bar must be
referrible, we think, to specific causes-which a perusal of the volume before us has, in some measure, sufficed to indicate. Since the days of Hale and Sir Michael Foster, or even of Erskine in his zenith, how vast have been political and social changes-how great has been the advance of knowledge-how general its dispersion amongst “the masses !” It is to the absence of strong political excitement that we should, in part, attribute the mediocrity adverted to. “In recent times,” says our author (p. 73), “political agitation has been comparatively infrequent, and a professional lawyer might be thought to be travelling unnecessarily beyond the range of his probable duties if he bestowed much time upon such topics” (i. e., the history of party warfare and of politics), which we may thus interpret-small, infinitesimally small, is the chance that an Attorney-general will at the present day, during his term of office, be called upon to conduct even one political prosecution
on behalf of government. We should not, indeed, thence altogether infer, that a student preparing himself for the bar ought to eschew politics, still less that he ought to avoid the study of what Mr. Wingrove Cooke has not inaptly termed the “history of party;" nor does our author mean to advise this. . He sees, on the contrary, indications of coming political or party struggles, and emphatically says, that “whenever such struggles come,” men must be producible from the ranks of the profession,
able in point of energy, cloquence, and moral courage, to enunciate and maintain whichever of the great principles of our national constitution” may be suddenly attacked. Few, we grieve to think, from amongst lawyers at the present day, could efficiently respond to such a summons !
The absence of bitter or vehement party feeling has led them to a neglect-much to be deplored—of the study of constitutional law; and thus, we fear, by necessary logical consequence, to a neglect likewise of the study of history, in its relation so intimate to law.
“ As an English lawyer,” says Mr. Smith, “needs to be most fully familiar with those laws which he is to assist in administering, so he may be naturally invited to seek a more thorough acquaintance with their growth, and to trace with particular attention the course of their roots, running in amongst the materials which successive ages have deposited on the original foundations at once of the national and legal history. Some branches of English law have a tolerably obvious relation to past times ; the law of real property stands connected with feudalism, and ecclesiastical laws with ecclesiastical history. The present state of criminal law will, to say the least, be better understood, and its principles better applied, by help of some acquaintance with its early and later stages; its ancient severity, with the expedients adopted to temper it; the modern endeavours to render it more humane; and the various changes which have marked its condition in the last thirty years. Perhaps, too, at points where it would scarcely be expected, a liberal acquaintance with English history might assist the efficiency of a practising barrister, desirous to present the less as well as the more obvious phases of the conflicting claims which he has to advocate; for the ideas which have gone to establish our legal rules of relative rights between landlord and tenant, master and servant, bailor and bailee, creditor and debtor, the laws relating to patents and copyrights, the combined freedom of the press and penalties on libel, the view taken of personal injuries, and the limits and modes of their redress, are more or less remotely associated with the political history of the nation, and the progress and causes of public opinion. The growth, comparatively modern, of commercial law, which now occupies so large a part of the time of our tribunals, has been blend, ed with the growth of commercial enterprise itself, with the foundation and progress of colonies, and with questions of the foreign as well as internal relations of the kingdom. In our own more than in some other countries, its general and its legal history are associated. A proper knowledge of the latter could scarcely consist with a blank ignorance of the former, and a liberal-minded student would hardly be inclined to set narrow limits to his estimate of the amount of it which might be useful to him."
This is not at all too strongly put; and, to enforce our author's argument by technical illustration, we should say that it were as hopeless to comprehend law rightly apart from history, as the effort would be to appreciate the scope and applicability of the remedy in assumpsit, in ignorance of Slade's case and of the first Common Law Procedure Act, or of the remedy by action on the case without reference to the statute of Westminster II., or to Pasley v. Freeman, and other similar authorities. The kindred studies of history and of law ought not then to be dissevered, but to be concurrently pursued by him who would achieve something more than mediocrity in his profession. It is to the neglect of the former of these studies that we would in part attribute the declension of the English bar.
Nor has the neglect of historical reading and research been adequately compensated by a stricter course of legal education than that which was formerly in vogue. Time was when, to use our author's figure, "methods of instruction in English law were , allowed to lose their vitality, and to dry up into mere sapless branches of a decaying tree;" and those times are neither separated from our own day by any long interval, nor distinguishable from it by any great or marked inferiority as regards the method of training for the bar. In proof of this, and as introductory to what we have presently to say, let us reproduce from Mr. Smith's volume (though in a somewhat condensed form) the sketch which he gives of what has been done by the Inns of Court in furtherance of legal education. In 1852, these learned bodies resolved that they would act in concert in the joint establishment and maintenance of an uniform system for the legal education of students before admission to the bar; that a standing committee or council should be established, to consist of eight benchers, two to be nominated by each of the Inns of Court; and that to this council should be intrusted the power and duty of superintending the whole subject of the éducation of the students, and of arranging and settling the details of the several measures which might be deemed necessary to be adopted. The members of the council were to remain in office for two years, and vacancies during that period were to be filled up by the Inn of which the member whose place was to be supplied had been the nominee.
For the purpose of affording to the students the means of obtaining instruction and guidance in their legal studies, five readerships or professorships were established, viz., on Jurisprudence and Civil Law, the Law of Real Property, Common Law, Equity, Constitutional Law and Legal History.
The duties of the readers have included the delivery of three courses of lectures in each year, the formation of private classes for instruction, and advice and direction to students for the conduct of their professional studies. These lectures and classes have been open for students of all the societies alike.
For the purposes of education, the legal year has been considered as divided into three terms or periods, commencing and ending respectively on the 1st of November and the 22nd of December, the 11th of January and the 30th of March, the 15th of April and the 31st of July; subject to a deduction of the days intervening between the end of Easter and the beginning of Trinity Term.
In order to be eligible for a call to the bar, students have been required to attend for one whole year the lectures of two of the readers, or to pass a public examination satisfactorily. Public examinations have been held three times a-year, viz., in Michaelmas, Hilary, and Trinity Terms, by members of the council, jointly with the readers; and certificates of having honourably passed have been given to such of the candidates as appeared to the examiners to be entitled to them. A studentship of fifty
guineas per annum, tenable for three years, has been conferred on the most distinguished student at each public examination; and the examiners have selected and certified the names of other students who have passed the next best examinations for honourable mention.
The Inn of Court to which the student who obtained a certificate of honour belonged, has been wont to dispense with two terms, out of such as might remain to be kept by such student, before being called to the bar. And, at every call to the bar, those students who have passed a public examination, and either obtained a studentship or a certificate of honour, have usually taken rank in seniority over other students called on the saine day.
The defects of the above scheme, which is still in force, are great, and apparent on the face of it. A student may reach the bar without submitting himself to any examination by which his proficiency may be tested. No suggestion even is offered for moots (of which our author, we rejoice to see, approves),' or for periodical class examinations, or for a student's library. It is true that, in a feeble document which has lately emanated from a committee of the Benchers of Lincoln's Inn, the establishment of examinations founded upon the lectures is recommended. But, even supposing the suggestions contained in this report to be concurred in by the other Inns, the main radical evil inherent in the existing system will still remain uncured, inasmuch as the student could then as now obtain access to the bar without submitting himself to the ordeal of examination. The tenacity with which the governing body of this Inn-we
! The readings and moots formerly customary at the Temple and Gray's Inn, are well described in Part I. chaps. 4-6 of this volume.
2 We have heard that the Hon. Soc. of the Inner Temple is disposed to follow the example set by that of the Middle Temple, in erecting a new Law Library; we would suggest to the committee of Benchers having charge of that in esse, the desirableness of exercising far stricter surveillance over those who frequent it. Talking in this library (we speak from personal experience) is habitual with some members of the Inn, who daily avail themselves of their privilege of entrée. Talking over the matters ordinarily discussed in penny newspapers (to an extent which, we think, the learned Benchers of the Inn can be little cognisant of), here prevails to the very serious annoyance and discomfiture of readers. Surely this should be put a stop to 1