Page images

Gray's Inn had not gone quite so far, though it had substantially done the same thing. It had appointed a committee with power to communicate with their Council and with the committees of the other Inns of Court, with a view to the promotion of the same object. Lincoln's Inn had not thought it expedient at present to go so far, but he " (Sir Roundell Palmer) "hoped and believed that it was only because they desired to move gradually, and to see their way before going further." Indeed, as the speaker whom we have just quoted observed, "the fact that they were met there that day to organize the Association and appoint its council might, if other reasons were wanting, justify their hesitation, and their resolve to wait for a future day before communicating with them."

Though a majority of the members of its council have formed the Council of the Association, the Incorporated Law Society have not up to this time signified in their corporate capacity their formal decision to co-operate with the Association, but stated in their reply to the invitation of the Associa tion that "they considered they ought not, as representing so large a proportion of the practising attorneys and solicitors, to express their approval of the objects of the Association, without ascertaining as far as practicable the views and opinions of the profession." Since this resolution was passed, nearly four months have elapsed. We trust that when the Association enters upon the second and most important part of its mission, it will find this Society, which has so faithfully discharged its duty as the pioneer of Legal Education, accepting, on behalf of the other branch of the profession, a new position and larger duties, and that it will become part of the new organization. It is right to add that the Metropolitan and Provincial Law Association and the leading provincial law societies have passed resolutions, declaring the objects of the Association" worthy of all who take an interest in the welfare of the profession."

* Address of Sir R. Palmer, in Lincoln's Inn Hall.

As we have already observed, the most difficult and delicate part of the work which the Association has taken in hand still remains to be done. It is much to have obtained a general and hearty recognition of the soundness of the principle on which the movement is based. But to embody that principle in a harmonious and efficient organization will task the patience, the tact, and the energy of the Executive Committee of the Council to which the duty has been entrusted. The manner in which this Committee has been selected shows clearly that one of the most formidable of their difficulties, that, namely, of making the scheme meet the views and needs of all the interests involved in it, has been realised and provided for. The Inns of Court, the Incorporated Law Society, the Universities, are all represented by men who best know what is wanted in their respective directions, and where they can and ought to make concessions. In the hope that we may afford them some slight assistance in their arduous labours, we venture to make the following suggestions with respect to the future work of the Association.


In the first place, proposals for narrowing the scope of the scheme will be made on all sides by obstructive, or timid, or crotchety advisers. These proposals must be rejected without hesitation. If the promoters of the present agitation have judged rightly in the matter, the time has come for a comprehensive reform, and the public mind is prepared for it. To ask, therefore, for some petty instalment, some piece of tentative machinery, or some clumsy adaptation of existing machinery would be sheer folly. Any such makeshift would be sure to prove unworkable, would discredit the movement, and postpone all real reform indefinitely. Then, again, the Committee must be prepared for endless minute objections to the details of their scheme, whatever shape it may ultimately take. As an illustration of what we mean we will take the observations of Sir George Young, in the paper read by him before the Juridical Society in May last. The tone of


that paper reflects the highest credit upon the writer. He approves without any reserve of the general objects which the Association aims at achieving the improvement, namely, of the official provisions for imparting legal instruction, and the substitution of an examination for the present system under which access is had to the profession. He welcomes the idea of concentrating the educational provisions for both branches of the profession into one school of law. Comparing the scheme of the Association with that proposed by the Royal Commission of 1854, he even goes so far as to say, that altogether the difference between them may be said to amount to this, that this scheme will work whilst that of the Commission will not." But though Sir George Young is quite free from the narrow prejudices which have hitherto obstructed all reform, he is not free from a certain academic narrowness, which prevents him from dealing with a practical question in a broad, practical, common-sense way. The term "university" attached to the proposed educational organization, jars upon his too critical and sensitive ear. It is no doubt, strictly speaking, an obvious misnomer, and not the less so, because, as Sir George Young tells us, Sir Edward Coke so described the Inns of Court in a rhetorical flourish, or because the Commission of 1854 tried by an equivocal confusion to defend the use of the word on etymological grounds. But the use of the word in this instance can do no harm, for it can lead to no misconception. No father who articles his son, or enters him at one of the Inns, would ever be misled by it into the notion that the "Law University of London" was going to give the youth a general as well as a professional education. "There is something attractive," as Sir George Young naïvely admits, in the name of a University, and we doubt whether the inaccuracy of the term would strike many even of the Cambridge fellows. It certainly did not occur to Mr. Lowe -no mean authority on academical education-for we find him speaking of the Inns of Court as "a University in a ate of decay."

The objection urged by the same writer to the giving of the professional degrees of Associate and Bachelor of Laws has more practical force, though, as regards the degree of Bachelor of Laws, he quite misunderstands the value of what he calls a "real" as compared with a professional degree. If the new system of legal education and examination is thoroughly carried out, a degree in law granted to the student for the Bar would necessarily represent some special professional knowledge, over and above the very moderate general education of the passman, and over and above any theoretical knowledge of jurisprudence acquired from the University law teachers. We are disposed, however, to agree with Sir George Young in thinking that the distinction implied in these degrees would not be worth the machinery required for conferring them as mere pass degrees. But it should be borne in mind that of late years the profession of an attorney has undergone a marked change, both in its character and position. The interests dealt with have greatly increased in complexity and importance, and it has become. quite clear that no man can be an efficient general practitioner in law-an adviser upon whom clients can relyunless he has received, not only a general education quite equal to that received by the candidate for a Master's degree at either Oxford or Cambridge, but a special knowledge of the principles of law, which neither of those Universities can, on their own admission, afford. This fact, coupled with the fact that the average professional income of attorneys is far higher than that of barristers, has naturally attracted the educated good sense of the country, and many of the younger members of this branch are graduates of Oxford, Cambridge, or London. But, whilst in London and our larger provincial towns there is plenty of business of a character which requires men of considerable education to do it properly, there is, throughout the country, a kind of practice which can be done by inferior men-men who can only enter the profession at all through a very moderate

pass examination. It is, we think, scarcely fair that every one who becomes an attorney should be confined to this low test of fitness; and it has been urged on their behalf, that if they concur in a common and comprehensive scheme of education, those students who, after presenting themselves for the higher examination which would qualify them for a call to the Bar, decide to become attorneys, should carry into their practice as attorneys some mark of their having passed this higher examination.

But all these points are merely matters of detail, and are given merely as instances of the criticisms which must be expected. It is when Sir George Young comes to deal with the method of organization that he shows how possible it is for able and earnest men to imperil the very reform which they advocate, through inability to look at a question except from one stand-point. Starting with the proposition that "the needs of candidates tend to call into existence the teaching which they require," he seriously proposes that the Association shall confine itself in the first instance to creating this demand for good teachers by creating a proper examining body; and he adopts as a model the Civil Service Commission. "Get an efficient body," he says, "to set the examinations," and the good teachers will answer to the demand for good teaching, which will be immediately created. But what would the Incorporated Law Society-what would the Inns of Court say, to a proposal for superseding them and their functions by a board of a similar character to the Civil Service Commission? We do not hesitate to say that these bodies would withdraw at once from all co-operation with the Association if it confined itself to such an attempt, and that the public, regarding the Association as a failure, would see it collapse without a single protest.

Here we have a striking instance of a proposal for piecemeal or tentative reform, which should not be entertained for a moment. Even if the ground were clear, we think that such a puny attempt to create a great educational machinery

« PreviousContinue »