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Inns of Court in United Kingdom

Introduction to Inns of Court

Inns of Court, four institutions in London whose members comprise the bar of England and Wales. In order to become a barrister the aspirant must join an Inn as a student and dine in hall 18 times, as well as pass professional examinations, before being formally “called to the bar.”

The four Inns are Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple. They consist of buildings of some antiquity, most of which house barristers’ chambers (offices). The Inns are each governed by benchers, the most senior barristers and judges in the Inn, who elect their own membership. The head of each Inn, chosen annually from and by the benchers, is the treasurer.

The Inns have their origins in the Middle Ages and have always been responsible for the education and discipline of barristers. The educational function is now chiefly supportive since the actual training of students has been delegated to the Council of Legal Education, whose membership generally represents all four Inns. The Inns provide library facilities for their students, some grants, and also conduct moots (mock trials). Originally supported by the Inns of Chancery, their role in the training of solicitors was taken over with the establishment of the Law Society.

Much of the Inns’ disciplinary function has also passed to the Bar Council, which is more directly representative of all barristers; but the Inns still have considerable powers.” (1)

History of Inns of Court

“Collegiate institutions in London, surviving from the Middle Ages, to which all *barristers belong. The inns are believed to derive -in accordance to Bamber Gascoigne´ Encyclopedia of Britain about “Inns of Court”– from hostels for those studying the common law, a subject not taught in the universities. The early rule that a student must reside for a number of terms was gradually replaced by a requirement that a given number of dinners must be eaten; three dinners were judged to equal one term. It is usual today for 24 meals to be consumed – normally over a two-year period, but by ‘double dining’ the task can be completed in one.

There are four inns, all occupying grounds to the west of the old walled City of London. They are first mentioned in documents of the 15C, but certainly existed in the previous century. Lincoln’s Inn is believed to derive its name from premises rented in the 14C from Thomas de Lincoln. Gray’s Inn was associated from the same period with an eminent legal family, the de Greys. The Inner Temple and the Middle Temple together occupy a site which belonged to the *Knights Templar until the suppression of the order in 1312. They share responsibility for an architectural treasure inherited from their predecessors – the Temple Church, one of the few round Norman churches in England, built in the late 12C in a transitional style between the Romanesque and the Gothic. The equivalent of the inns of court in Scotland is the Faculty of Advocates.”


Notes and References


  1. Information about Inns of Court in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia


Guide to Inns of Court

English Law: Inns of Court in the Past

The name given to the colleges of the English professors and students of the common law. 2. There is further information on this topic in this legal reference. The four main Inns of Court are the Inner Temple and Middle Temple, (formerly belonging to the Knights Templars) Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn, (ancient belonging to the earls of Lincoln and ray.) The other inns are the two Sergeants’ Inns. There is further information on this topic in this legal reference. The Inns of Chancery were probably so called because they were once inhabited by such clerks, as chiefly studied the forming of writs, which regularly belonged to the cursitors, who are officers of chancery. These are Thavie’s Inn, the New Inn, Symond’s Inn, Clement’s Inn, Clifford’s Inn,’ Staple’s Inn, Lion’s Inn, Furnival’s Inn and Barnard’s Inn. Before being called to the bar, it is necessary to be admitted to one of the Inns of Court. [1]


Notes and References

  1. Partialy, this information about inns of court is based on the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, 1848 edition. There is a list of terms of the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, including inns of court.

See Also

Concept of Inns of Court

Traditional meaning of inns of court [1] in the English common law history: The four law societies of the Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn, and Gray’s Inn, which in England are privileged to confer the degree of barrister at law.


Notes and References

  1. Based on A concise law dictionary of words, phrases and maxims, “Inns of Court”, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1911, United States. This term and/or definition may be absolete. It is also called the Stimson’s Law dictionary, based on a glossary of terms, included Inns of Court.

See Also

Law is our Passion

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  • Article Name: Inns of Court
  • Author: Danny W.
  • Description: Introduction to Inns of Court Inns of Court, four institutions in London whose members comprise the bar of England and [...]

This entry was last updated: July 26, 2020


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