Guide to the Inns of Court
2 September 2009
All prospective barristers must join an Inn of Court before beginning the Bar Professional Training Course. Grays Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple are open to all bar students to apply to in any area of legal practice.
Determining factors in applying to a certain inn may include knowing a particular individual there or being familiar with the inn from university societies. However there are no long-term limitations in joining one inn over another.
The inns are impressive buildings rich in history and tradition. They are responsible for calling students to the bar on the successful completion of the BVC and the twelve qualifying sessions at the respective inn itself, and therefore awarding a barrister with the permission to practice.
Read on to find out more as Lawyer2B.com’s guide exposes the facts on each of the four inns.
Background: Whilst none of the inns can concretely prove their date of origin, Gray’s Inn is thought to have been in fully-fledged existence by 1388. The Inn and surrounding area was formerly the dwelling (‘inn’) of Sir Reginald de Grey, Chief Justice of Chester in addition to being Constable and Sheriff of Nottingham, and was made up of at least one lake, market and Manor House.
During subsequent centuries the Inn prospered, yet in the 16th century , Gray’s Inn became the place du jour for noblemen and country gentlemen to send their sons. Beyond the entertainment, dancing and masquerades that the Inn had become renowned for, few members actually had the intention of fulfilling their education to become qualified barristers. The situation peaked between 1561 and 1600, when the average admittance to the Inn was sixty-two, but the annual calls to the Bar numbered only six.
The true hub of the Inn is located in the Hall, and the site comprises an extensive library, chapel, chambers and sixty residential flats available for qualified members to let.
Quirky fact: In 1750, the Librarian, Fergus Clavering was granted an increase in salary to £30 per annum. He was so overcome when he heard the good news he died soon afterwards.
General: The Inn has an Association of Grays Inn Students (AGIS), a student-led organisation that liaises between the Inn’s members and its benchers and administration. AGIS publishes a weekly newsletter called ‘The Griffin’.
Defining feature: Join a membership list that dates back to 1521 and includes such great names as Thomas Cromwell, John Pym, Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton, and the philosopher Francis Bacon.
Scholarships: The Inn can provide scholarships and awards to the total value of over £700,000 a year, with the majority of awards for those undertaking their BVC, and the remainder going to those in their CPE and/or pupillage years.
Contact:www.graysinn.org.uk - General information can be obtained from Juliet Abrahams, Registrar, 020 7458 7808 or email@example.com. Education queries can be sent to Quinn Clarke, Head of Education - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background: Lincoln’s Inn possesses formal records contained in the ‘Black Books’ which date its legal activities from 1422, and its name most probably derives from Henry de Lacy, the third Earl of Lincoln (1249 - 1311) who is said to have been the patron of the Inn and to have lived in nearby Shoe Lane. The lion from the de Lacy family’s coat-of-arms still features today on the Inn’s crest. The mill-rinds also visible on the crest were derived from the arms of Richard Kingsmill, a bencher who played a leading part in the 1580 acquisition of the whole of the current site.
The charm of the Inn lies in its stunning architecture, which fortunately managed to escape the devastation caused elsewhere by the bombs of World War II. The chancery gatehouse was constructed in 1518, and the Old Hall and some chambers also date from this century. The architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, of St. Pancras Station fame, extended the library by three bays eastwards in 1871-72.
Former members of Lincoln’s Inn include fifteen Prime Ministers, Tony Blair among them, and the novelists Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, Wilkie Collins, Rider Haggard, and John Galsworthy. The poet John Donne was Preacher to the Inn and laid the foundation stone of the present Chapel, built in 1623. Most famously, Thomas More, was admitted as a student in 1496 and later became a bencher and governor of the Inn.
Quirky fact: During the 18th and 19th centuries girls unable to care for their newborn babies would sometimes leave them at the Chapel of the Inn. The babies were subsequently ‘adopted’ and cared for into adulthood by the Inn. The children were often given the name Lincoln.
General: The Inn has strong connections with the Chancery Bar, but welcomes students aspiring to all fields of practice. It supplements a pupil’s formal training by arranging debates, moots, instruction, exercises in advocacy and experience as a judge’s marshal.
Defining feature: A former and well-established member, Lord Denning, set up an exclusive society whose membership is restricted to those who hold scholarships or bursaries at Lincoln’s Inn. The Denning Society meets three times annually, the most important occasion being a dinner in January to celebrate the great Lord’s birthday.
Scholarships: For the 2010/2011 academic year, Lincoln’s Inn will be offering over £1.1m primarily towards scholarships for the BVC.
Contact:www.lincolnsinn.org.uk. Information regarding scholarships for the 2010/2011 academic year can be obtained from Judith Fox, Students’ Administrator at the Treasury Office, 020 7405 0138 or email@example.com.
Background: The history of the Inner Temple begins in the middle of the twelfth century when the Order of the Knights Templar constructed the Temple Church, modeled on the Church of St. Sepulchre in Jerusalem, on a site near the Thames, and this original church still forms part of the of the Temple Church visible today.
Two hundred years later, lawyers came to inhabit the buildings left there after the abolition of the Order, and split themselves into two societies known as the Inner and the Middle Temple. Each society occupied one of the halls constructed by the Templars on the site, but it was not until 1732 when a deed of partition formally divided the area between them.
Each buiding can be identified by the emblems sculptured on them: a Pegasus represents the Inner Temple, although the reasons behind the design of a mythical horse are unknown. It has been speculated that the Pegasus could have been taken from the Templars’ seal of two knights with shields on horseback, with the shields resembling a horse’s wings.
Former members of Inner Temple include certain foreign statesmen, most notably Mahatma Ghandi, while the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal both currently hold positions as Royal Benchers.
Quirky fact: It is alleged that Geoffrey Chaucer was a member of the Inner Temple, and the Inn is mentioned in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
General: The Inn has a strong reputation for producing European and world mooting or debating champions. There are many societies to which Inner Temple students can belong, including the mooting, debating and drama societies, as well as gaining automatic membership of The Inner Temple Student Association.
Defining feature: Hidden within Inner Temple a unique three-acre garden can be found, which boats several unusual species of tree and flower. During the Victorian period the Inn hosted some of London’s top flower shows, a tradition which continued until 1911. The Inn is immensly proud of the garden and has a head gardener and a team of permanent members of staff solely for the upkeep and presentation of the site.
Scholarships: Inner Temple awards about £1.14m each year, to be distributed between the BVC, CPE, internships, pupillage and disability awards.
Background: Middle Temple’s history is closely linked with that of Inner Temple, as both have their roots in the original site created by the Order of the Knights Templar. The area occupied by both Inns made up one of the ancient Houses of Order, the Knights’ bases in England.
It is alleged that the name ‘Middle Temple’ first appeared in 1337, when instructions to repair part of the jetty at the riverside referred to a lane passing “through the middle of the Court of the Temple”. Middle Temple buildings can be distinguished by the stone emblem of a Lamb and Flag from those belonging to Inner Temple.
Middle Temple owns records, which date from 1501, and a survey some seventy-three years later already shows a very active society with some two hundred members. Famous former Middle Temple members over the years include Sir Walter Raleigh, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Prince William of Wales holds a position as Royal Bencher.
The sixteenth century was an important period for the growing Middle Temple, and some of the oldest books in the library, which date from this time demonstrate the depth of the subject matter that the Inn’s members studied. Today the library boasts around 150,000 books, on a range of topics in addition to legal texts. it also has an enviable rare book collection featuring books on topics as varied as topography, early exploration, science and medicine. Moreover, the library owns two Molyneux Globes, made by the famous Elizabethan globe maker Emery Molyneux. The pair comprises a terrestrial and celestial globe and are two of only six left to be still in existence.
Quirky fact: When barristers are called to the Bar at Middle Temple, they stand at a table know as the Cup Board to sign their name in the Inn’s book. This table is made of the hatch cover of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the ‘Golden Hind’.
General: The Inn is famous for holding the annual Rosamond Smith Mooting Competition and its templars are among the past victors of the World Debating Championship. The Inn also contributes into a modest fund for support for social or educationcal events organised by students.
Defining feature: Middle Temple was defined as a local authority under the Temples Order of 1971 and consequently is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Common Council of the Corporation of London. Middle and Inner Temples are both known as liberties, an old word meaning geographic division.
Scholarships: Middle Temple offers a number of scholarships and awards annually to the value of £1m, as well as fifty Entrance Exhibitions, which cover the admission and call fees of the inn.
Contact:www.middletemple.org.uk. For information regarding awards contact Indira Pillay, Scholarships Officer, on 020 7427 4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More general queries can be sent to email@example.com