HL Deb 06 March 1860 vol 157 cc9-12

, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, he was anxious to explain the circumstances under which it was introduced when there was already another measure of the same character before the Legislature. The whole of the laws with respect to attorneys and solicitors were comprised in the statute 6th and 7th Vict., which regulated the admission of attorneys to the roll and other matters. The experience of sixteen years had shown that the existing system required amendment, and that legal education was susceptible of improvement. The Incorporated Law Society having turned its attention to the subject, prepared a Bill for the improvement of the law, which was circulated among the members of the different Inns of Court, was sent to the different law officers, and a copy was transmitted to each of Her Majesty's Judges. Every one who was acquainted with and had investigated the subject expressed their approbation of the Bill so framed, and among others, his noble and learned Friend now on the woolsack, then Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, who expressed his highest approbation of the measure, and undertook to introduce it to the House. That was done, and the Bill having been introduced under his noble and learned Friend's auspices, passed their Lordships' House, and was sent down to the House of Commons very late in the Session—on the 27th of July. It did not get into Committee till August, where in consequence of the interposition of the Board of Inland Revenue in a matter relative to the stamp duties, delay took place, and before the Bill could be passed the Session came to an end. It was the intention of the Incorporated Law Society to have re-introduced their Bill on the opening of the present Session; but it being necessary to communicate with the Inns of Court and the Board of Inland Revenue with respect to the machinery for the certificates, some delay took place, and in the meantime an hon. and learned Friend, a Member of the House of Commons, introduced a Bill which, with some alterations, had come up to their Lordships' House. That Bill was framed in a very remarkable manner. The Bill which under the auspices of his noble and learned Friend had passed their Lordships House, contained thirty-one clauses, embodying a general plan for the regulation and improvement of the profession generally. The hon. and learned Gentleman; to whom he had alluded selected eight clauses of that Bill, and imported them into his own, adding three original clauses. When the Bill was introduced, the Incorporated Law Society put themselves into communication with the hon. and learned I Gentleman, and requested him cither to withdraw his measure in favour of the larger scheme which they proposed, or to delay its progress for a stage or two, in order that both measures might be before the House of Commons at the same time. That, however, was refused, and the Bill went into Committee; when the Incorporated Law Society endeavoured to procure the insertion of the twenty-three remaining clauses of their Bill; but the Committee were of opinion that the general scope of the Bill did not admit of the insertion of those clauses, and said it was too great an alteration to be made in Committee. The Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman therefore proceeded, and having passed the House of Commons, was brought up to I their Lordships' House. Under these circumstances, the Bill, the second reading of which he now moved, had been prepared at the instance of the Incorporated Law Society, the object of which was to elevate the character of the profession generally, to raise the standard of legal education, and to confer privileges on certain classes of persons who desired to be admitted to practice as attorneys. Nothing could be more inconvenient or contrary to their policy and mode of legislation than to allow two Bills to effect the same object to be introduced in the same Session, when the whole of the provisions might be incorporated into one measure; and it was, there- fore, desirable that they should pass a Bill which had already substantially received their sanction, and not allow the introduction of the Bill brought up from the other House. It was not necessary to describe at any length the general scope of the measure he was now advocating; but there were one or two provisions of great importance on which he would make an observation. Under the present system no person could be admitted an attorney without having served five years as an articled clerk; it was proposed to give to persons who had taken a degree at any of the Universities the privilege of being admitted after a three years' service under articles, and to others who had passed a creditable examination the privilege of being admitted after a four years' service. There could be no doubt that such a provision would tend to raise the character of the profession. It was proposed also to give to persons who had served for ten years as clerks in attorneys' offices—not those who did the mere drudgery, but clerks who were engaged in a sort of business in which attorneys themselves would be engaged, and which necessarily tended to improve their professional knowledge—the privilege of being admitted after serving as articled clerks three years. He had at first thought that clause objectionable, as operating against the interest of gentlemen who, having received a liberal education, chose the profession of attorneys; but, after mature deliberation, he thought that the privilege ought to be conferred upon persons of that class who had faithfully and honestly served as clerks to attorneys for long periods, and had thereby acquired a high degree of professional knowledge and experience. There was some alteration in this Bill and the last one with respect to conveyancers, who, instead of being permitted to renew their certificates at their own option, would now do so under the sanction of the Inns of Court.


said, he rejoiced that the Bill had been brought before the House by his noble and learned Friend, and expressed his approval of those clauses that related to a meritorious class of persons the managing clerks, and which would tend to raise them in society. He trusted that some provision would be introduced to test their literary acquirements. He also expressed his approval of the provisions with reference to certificated conveyancers.

After some explanation from Lord CRANWORTH,

Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.