The Legal Profession in England

By the end of the eighteenth century, law in England had become a full-fledged profession. Members of the profession considered law a full-time occupation, training schools were established, universities began to offer degrees in law, and a professional association evolved in the form of a lawyers’ guild. The practice of law required licensing, and formal codes of ethics were established. Knowledge of law and skills of legal procedures became a marketable commodity, and lawyers had a monopoly on them. The practice of law in royal courts was limited to members of the lawyers’ guild, which in turn enhanced their political power, their monopoly of expertise in the market, and their monopoly of status in a system of stratification (Frank, 2010). Access to the profession became controlled, and social mobility for those admitted assured. By the end of the eighteenth century, the name “attorney” had been dropped in favor of the term “solicitor,” with the formation of the Society of Gentlemen Practicers in the Courts of Law and Equity, which was their professional society until 1903, when the Law Society came into being.

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