Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The origin and history of the Inns of Court, their relation to each other and to the English legal profession, and their subsequent decline, pose some puzzling problems which often do not admit of a precise or uniform answer. This paper, however, will attempt to clarify some of the following questions: When and under what conditions did the lawyers of England move into common dwelling places or Inns? Why did they cluster together in a strip of land which was surrounded on the south by the River Thames, on the east by the old City of London, on the north by the suburban village of Holborn, and on the west by Westminster? When did these common dwelling places assume the character of organized societies or institutions? What were the regulations which bound together the members of each society, and how was the society administered? What was the constitutional position of the Inns of Court towards each other and towards the English Bench and Bar in general? What was the social life in the Inns like and what was their educational system? How did they acquire the right to admit people to practice before the higher courts of England? And finally, what factors contributed to their ultimate decline?