The History of Direct Access to Barristers

The evolution of solicitors as compulsory intermediaries to barristers

During the course of the 19th Century what had, for a long time, been common practice hardened into a firm rule that clients had to go to a solicitor intermediary to obtain the services of a barrister, rather than going direct to a barrister. In the early 21st Century this firm rule was abolished and the position reverted to what it had been 200 years before - i.e. it remained common for barristers to be engaged by a solicitor intermediary but direct access to barristers was again possible in suitable cases. 

It is difficult to argue against the general proposition that the regulation of legal services is in the public interest. The vast majority of countries restrict who can provide core legal services such as advocacy in a court. But whilst the general principle may not be in doubt, the precise form of the restrictions imposed may be more controversial. It is likely to be the case that, in a market economy, restricting the right to provide certain legal services to a particular group, will increase the fees which those in that group can charge. The particular restriction may serve the public interest but it is also in the pecuniary interest of members of the group. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive and it may be argued that the relatively high fees charged by lawyers are necessary to make the training of lawyers economically viable - if you have to study for many years during which you are earning nothing it may be the prospect of eventual above-average earnings which encourages the sacrifice. But there must always be the possibility that public interest justifications for particular restrictions are prompted, at least party, by less lofty motives.

The government is always looking for ways to raise taxes. The tendency in the United Kingdom has been for a broadening of the tax base so that nowadays most people pay income tax (or corporation tax in the case of corporate bodies) and most businesses are obliged to collect a sales tax. Historically it was more common to raise taxes by granting a lucrative privilege to a particular individual on condition that tax was paid for the exercise of that privilege. For example from the 12th Century English monarchs awarded charters to local lords to create markets and fairs for a town or village. The charter protected the town's trading privileges in return for an annual fee.

A more modern example can be found in the granting of a conveyancing monopoly to lawyers in section 14 of the Stamp Act 1804. In the 1780s and 1790s, Parliament raised funds by imposing taxes on articles and practising certificates of lawyers, and in 1804 the Society of Gentleman Practisers in the Courts of Law Equity protested against rumours of tax increases. The Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, refused to relinquish his proposed tax increases but by way of appeasement agreed to insert a clause in the taxation legislation giving lawyers a monopoly on conveyancing for gain. Clearly it is in the public interest that documents transferring ownership of valuable property should be competently drawn up, but whether restricting conveyancing to this particular group of practitioners in circumstances where they are obliged to charge higher fees for conveyancing to cover the practitioners' general practising costs made higher by increased taxation, is a separate, though related, question.

So any historical enquiry into the causes of the rule change in the 19th Century which meant that clients had to go to a solicitor intermediary to obtain the services of a barrister has to deal with a number of possible causes and underlying motives or different groups and  like all historical questions of cause and effect, it is difficult to prove, at this distance in time, what were the main and contributing causes of the change, and, unlike some other historical changes, it has not been, so far as I know, the subject of very much research. But here is an overview of what some of the factors might have been.      

Barristers, otherwise known as "counsel" (or serjeants-at-law as members of the bar were known in the Middle Ages) are what most people immediately think of as "lawyers", giving legal advice, drafting pleadings, and representing clients in court, but, for a number of reasons, litigants also had occasion to engage other legal practitioners in addition to a barrister.

Nowadays civil court proceedings, if not commenced online, are commenced by a Claimant sending multiple copies of a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim to the court office with the issue fee. The court office will then formally "issue" the Claim by entering the case in the courts record's and assigning a case number, and stamping the documents with the court "seal". One copy of the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim is then sent to the Defendant who responds by sending an Acknowledgement of Service form (or a full Defence if the Defendant is in a position to provide it as this stage) to the court office. All this can be accomplished by post. To save time the Claimant, rather than using the post, can call at the court office and ask for the Claim Form to be "issued" there and then but in doing so they will simply be handing over a document and talking to a member of the court's administrative staff behind the counter - there is no question of having to appear in court before a judge simply to start a case. Of course ultimately, if the case is not settled by the parties by agreement, there will be a trial before a judge at which the Claimant and Defendant (together with their witnesses) will appear in court, usually represented by a barrister, but no court appearance is needed at the start of the case. In the Middle Ages, however, often both the Claimant and the Defendant had to appear in court at the start of the case and a trace of this ancient requirement can be seen in the fact that the act of the Defendant in sending an Acknowledgement of Service form to the court office is still, even today, known as "entering an appearance"         

Particularly before the advent of the railways, it was not at all easy for litigants to get to court so there was a demand for someone else to appear in court as the litigant's "attorney" to commence the case, known as "suing out process", or to enter an appearance. A litigant's attorney might be a trusted servant or relative but, over time, there came to be freelance attorneys who would act for a fee for any litigant. There were also essoiners whose role it was to make formal excuses for non-appearance in court. As well as dealing with some formal pre-trial procedures - which included watching out that the 'return day' for a party's cause was not missed (there were three days grace, a fine for not appearing until the fourth day and automatic discontinuance was the penalty thereafter) attorneys also dealt with the formalities of execution (enforcement) of judgments given at the end of a trial. Sir Edward Coke, writing in the early 17th Century, referred to attorneys of his day as officium laboris - "following the advice of the learned and dispatching of matters of course and experience"

A number of other factors meant that there was much for the officium laboris to do. Before the advances in manufacturing methods in the 19th Century paper was expensive but once paper became cheaper there was an increase in the use of written documents in everyday life. Consequently there was an increase in the amount of documentary evidence in a typical case and, before the invention of photocopiers, copying of documents was done by transcription. Over the centuries courts developed procedures whereby parties could be required to disclose, well before the trial, documents in their possession relevant to the case so that the other side could make copies - a process known as "discovery". However a number of factors would have meant that litigants would generally not themselves have been able to deal with this process. The problem might not have been directly in the transcription process itself, as the services of copyists were readily available for a fee. Rather the difficulty would have been in identifying the documents to be copied since, because of the costs of of transcription, copying everything just in case it was needed would have been uneconomic.  

A party might be obliged by court rules to allow copies to be made of documents they held which were relevant to the case but they were not required to allow them to leave their possession. A practice grew up where clients would deposit documents with their attorneys (or solicitors, who were the equivalent, for cases in the courts of chancery, of attorneys for for the common law courts) and each party’s attorney/solicitor would visit the offices of the other party’s attorney/solicitor (who would typically be in the same city - e.g. London) in order to make copies by hand. It might be agreed between attorneys/solicitors that the firm holding documents would be trusted to make (or engage a freelance copyist to make) and supply true copies, but a literate person, on the spot, with some knowledge of the issues in the case would be needed to first identify the documents to be copied. 

Because of the cost of copying by transcription it would have been desirable that the person on the spot, identifying documents to be copied, should have some basic degree of legal knowledge so as to be able to decide which documents were clearly not relevant and so not worth making copies of. Of course the advice of a barrister could ultimately be sought on which documents were relevant to the case but it would have been important to identify, at an early stage, the possibly relevant from the clearly irrelevant so that the latter were not unnecessarily copied. So quite apart from the fact that, before the building of the railways, travelling from the country to London was not easy, an attorney with some legal knowledge was essential in any case with a significant number of evidential documents. 

So there has always been a demand for what might be called non-barrister legal personnel but the demand increased with the increase in the amount of documentary evidence in the typical case. Particularly when literacy rates were lower it would have made some sense for attorneys to generally be the point of contact between barrister and client but the idea of a particular class of non-barristers being the usual intermediary or "gateway" to the services of a barrister seems to date from the early 18th Century and the formation of a Society of Gentleman Practisers in the Courts of Law Equity in 1729. We know this from the 1850 test case of Bennett v Hale and Davis. In that case the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Campbell, when rejecting an argument that there was actually a rule of law requiring barristers who appeared in the superior common-law courts to be engaged through an attorney, nevertheless spoke approving of the practice as being "the almost uniform usage which has prevailed upon the subject for more than a century" contrasting it with the former position where "for a long time the attorney only sued out process and did what was necessary in the offices of the Court for bringing the case to trial, and for having execution on the judgment". 

Lord Campbell added that despite not being enforced as a rule of law, "[the attorneys'] intermediary agency between the parties and the counsel, so conducive to the due administration of justice, will I hope remain unimpaired". Why was the practice of attorneys being an "intermediary agency" considered so important that it became "an almost uniform usage" in the 18th Century? We have already considered the task of dealing with the burgeoning amount of paper documents and copies thereof but a further reason for Lord Campbell's words may lie in the practicalities and sensitivities of the taking of sworn witness statements known as affidavits. Affidavits whereby evidence is given in written form rather than orally before a judge - or is given partly in written form with only cross-examination before a judge - were increasing being used.

It is a fundamental principle that a barrister cannot be a witness in a case in which they also appear in court as advocate. A barrister who witnessed a traffic accident, for example, could not represent either of the parties in court. This is for two reasons. First of all, even if the party engaging the barrister did not want them as a witness, the other party might, in theory want to call the barrister as a witness depending on the answers given by other witnesses in court. If that were to happen the trial would have to be abandoned, at considerable cost, and new counsel appointed, so the possibility that that could happen means that a barrister with their own knowledge of the facts must not take the case. Secondly, if a barrister has personal knowledge of the matter arising in the court case, they could be "professionally embarrassed" and have to withdraw for that reason, again at considerable cost to the parties. A barrister works on the reasonable assumption that their client is telling them the truth. Occasionally what a barrister's client tells them seems inherently unlikely, but if the client insists that it is the truth, it is the duty of the barrister not to judge their own client but to represent them in court to the best of their ability and to leave it to the court to decide on the truth of the matter. Every barrister has had clients whose story seemed unlikely but, equally, every barrister will have had cases where what at first sight seemed unlikely turns out, when tested in court, to appear entirely probable. If, however, the barrister knows that what their client is saying is untrue (e.g. because the client has told them one thing privately and then says the complete opposite in court) then the barrister is "professionally embarrassed" and cannot continue because they cannot knowingly mislead the court. A barrister who had their own knowledge of the facts in the case would be placed in an invidious position. If their client gave evidence which conflicted with the barrister's own recollection the barrister would have to consider how good they considered their own recollection to be and whether or not it was the case that they knew what their client was saying was not true so that they were "professionally embarrassed". To avoid such difficulties there is a firm rule that a barrister cannot take a case in which they have personal knowledge of matters which might be in dispute.   

Now, returning to the question of the taking of witness statements, the accuracy of some of the content of witness statements will invariably be disputed between the parties but, in addition, the way in which witness statements were taken may itself be a matter of dispute. In the 18th Century and before, when literacy rates were lower than they now are, when paper was expensive, and when everything had to be written by hand, a "scribe", whoever that was, would, of necessity, have had to ask the witness to give their account, interrupting them to ask clarifying questions, before, having got the whole account, they started to write. It is not difficult to see that because the witness might not be able to read what was written to check it, the other side, seeing a witness saying things in writing with which they disagreed might come to suspect that what was written down was not the unvarnished testimony of the witness but had been subject to improper embellishment by the writer. It is not necessary to speculate about how often such suspicions might have been true in e.g. 18th Century England in order to appreciate that the theoretical possibility of this happening meant that it was a legitimate question for cross-examination at trial, so that it was important that barristers should not themselves talk to witnesses and take statements. It may be that it was this which caused the "intermediary agency" of attorneys to be perceived not merely as an organisational convenience but as an essential matter of propriety, particularly as there had been, in the 19th Century, an increasing tendency for parties themselves to be witnesses.

Historically the courts have had quite rigid rules about admissibility of evidence. The evidence of anyone who could benefit depending on the outcome of the case was often excluded altogether and, most strikingly, this meant that in most courts the parties themselves were not allowed to give evidence. The evidence of the parties had always been admissible in the courts of chancery but had historically been inadmissible in common-law courts. However at the time of the 1850 test case of Bennett v Hale and Davis, local county courts had just been established by the County Courts Act 1846 which did allow the parties themselves to be witnesses, and there had also been attempts in Parliament to allow the parties to be witnesses in the superior common-law courts as well (finally realised in the Evidence Act 1851). This may have been a further factor seen as justifying a practice whereby attorneys had to be an "intermediary agency" between barristers and clients so that barristers did not meet clients, who would now also be witnesses, until after the attorney had taken a statement from the client.

During the 20th Century, gradually the need for an attorney/solicitor to carry out many of the tasks they had traditionally done, and to be the contact point between barrister and client, would start to diminish. Travel was to become easier, and photocopiers revolutionised the the process of copying documents. And whilst it remained the rule that barristers should not take witness statements (from witnesses other than the client themselves), it came to be recognised that drafting a witness statement for the client - based on information which had been given by the client - was, at least in some circumstances - such as where a witness statement needed to be drafted for an interim application for an injunction - mainstream barrister work. This relaxation of the general prohibition on barristers taking statements from their clients came against the background of a general relaxation in the rules about admissibility of evidence in civil cases, starting with the Civil Evidence Act 1968. Historically the courts have had quite rigid rules about admissibility of evidence but the modern approach, in civil cases which are decided by a judge alone without a jury, is be be relatively relaxed about what evidence can be heard by the court or tribunal, the rationale being that those factors which may cast doubt on the reliability of evidence (such as a witness having a personal interest in the outcome of a case, or a witness relating what they have been told by others rather than what they have seen for themself) can be taken into account by the judge in deciding what weight to give to the evidence rather than being a reason to exclude the evidence from consideration altogether.  

But before the dawn of the 20th Century attorneys/solicitors had already established themselves as compulsory general 'intermediaries' between client and barrister, and, while this was so, it seemed natural that attorney/solicitors should organise everything for the client. The client could not decide to do some work themselves, for example copying documents, and only pay the attorney/solicitor for the work which required an attorney/solicitor - the client had to take, and pay for, the entire package of services organised by the attorney/solicitor. The package would include some general legal advice because if the barrister did not see the client until after legal proceedings were underway it fell to the attorney/solicitor to read to the client the barrister's written Opinion and answer questions on it and, course, earlier on, it would have been the attorney/solicitor who first saw the client, took down the facts, and decided whether there was, or at least might be, a legal case.

It appears that, during the 19th Century, there was a concerted effort by attorneys/solicitors to enshrine in law the practice that barristers must be instructed through an attorney/solicitor, and the 19th Century was also the century during which those working as attorneys or solicitors sought, and gradually achieved, professional status. Some key events were as follows.        

In 1831 The Society of Attorneys Solicitors Proctors and Others not being Barristers Practising in the Courts of Law and Equity in the UK was given a Royal Charter.

When the modern County Court system, designed to facilitate smaller claims being heard locally, was introduced by the County Courts Act in 1846, s.91 provided that a barrister was not to be allowed to appear in any County Court unless they were instructed by an attorney. 

In 1850 in the previously mentioned test case of Bennett v Hale and Davis an attempt was made to persuade the court that there was a rule of law, established by immemorial usage, that prevented barristers appearing in the higher courts also unless instructed by an attorney. The argument that there was such a rule of law was rejected by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Campbell. He did express the view that the intervention of attorneys was a beneficial development but he held that it could only be enforced by the professions themselves, not as a rule of law:

If immemorial usage be relied upon, we must remember that serjeants countors and other counsel existed in England long before the time of Edward I.; and there seems every reason to believe that they long continued to communicate directly with the parties. Chaucer speaks of

     “A Serjeant of the lawe ware and wise, That often hadde yben at the parvis”

The pervise is well known to have been a sort of exchange at St. Paul's, where all ranks met to do business, and the serjeants at law, like Roman patrons, gave advice to all who came to consult them. Afterwards each serjeant at law had a pillar in the cathedral assigned to him, where he stood and conversed with his clients. The advantage to be derived from subdividing the business of conducting a suit, and having two orders in the profession of the law between whom it should be distributed, became more and more felt; but for a long time the attorney only sued out process and did what was necessary in the offices of the Court for bringing the cause to trial, and for having execution on the judgment. I highly approve of the demarcation finally drawn between the functions of the attorney and those of the counsel, and I believe that the intervention of the attorney between the counsel and the party has greatly contributed, not only to the dignity of the Bar, but to the improvement of English jurisprudence. I revert to the practice of former ages only for the purpose of shewing that the onus here does not lie upon the defendants to vouch an Act of Parliament or rule of Court, or decision, to support the privilege which they claim.

I am by no means insensible of the inconvenience which may arise from this privilege being judicially recognized. But I do earnestly trust that it will not alter the almost uniform usage which has prevailed upon the subject for more than a century, and that the interference of the Judges to rectify any abuse of it will not be necessary. Exceptional cases may again occur, though very rarely, when it may be fit for barristers to plead in civil suits, instructed only by the parties; but I hope that they will continue generally to adhere to what has been considered the etiquette of the Bar. Although conscientiously bound and ever ready to render their best assistance for the discovery of truth and the vindication of right, they are at liberty, under the control of the Courts, to lay down conditions upon which, for the public good, their services are to be obtained.

Nor can that highly honourable and useful branch of the profession, the attorneys, be prejudiced by this decision; for it would be penal for any class of men to perform any of the functions which properly belong to an attorney; and their intermediary agency between the parties and the counsel, so conducive to the due administration of justice, will I hope remain unimpaired.

At any rate we can at present only look to see how the law is; leaving any inconvenience which may be produced by it to be remedied by the authority of the Judges or the Legislature.

Direct access to barristers is restricted and then prohibited

Just over 30 years later, in 1883, The Society of Attorneys Solicitors Proctors and Others not being Barristers Practising in the Courts of Law and Equity in the UK persuaded the newly formed Bar Committee, which set rules of professional practice for barristers, that barristers should, as a rule of professional practice, only accept cases via solicitors. The minutes of the first meeting of the Bar Committee, on 5/5/1883, record that "they have been able to work in harmony" with the Society and a resolution was passed that

it is not desirable to alter any existing practice under which Barristers do not see or advise clients without the intervention of Solicitors

This would appear to be the point at which what had been a general practice hardened into a firm policy of the body representing Barristers as well as that representing Solicitors (by this time, as a result of the Judicature Acts, Proctors, Attorneys had been renamed Solicitors - to reflect this, in 1903, the Society changed its name to simply The Law Society). Ever since solicitors had been allowed to appear as advocates in County Courts, they had been pressing to be allowed to appear in the higher courts as well, a proposal which barristers resisted, and it has been suggested that barristers agreeing, in 1883, not to accept clients direct represented a quid pro quo under which solicitors agreed not to press their case for rights of audience in the higher courts in return for being assured of a remunerative role whenever a barrister was engaged.

Not all barristers thought making solicitors the sole gateway to barristers was a good idea. John Marshall of Tunbridge Wells, a barrister of 34 years' standing, wrote to the Bar Committee in November 1883 asking that

consideration should be given whether the Public cannot have advice and conferences with a Barrister at a moderate fee without being obliged to have recourse in the first instance to a solicitor, at, in many cases, a ruinous cost

Throughout the 20th Century barristers representing a client in court or tribunal were, with very few exceptions, always engaged by a solicitor intermediary, but some barristers continued to provide advice direct to clients in certain circumstances. The circumstances in which this was permitted were not entirely clear and were sometimes disputed. Sometimes it was said that advice could be given about matters as long as they were "non-contentious" matters - i.e. matters which were no subject to, of likely to soon become the subject of, court or tribunal proceedings. Sometimes it was said that advice could be given direct to poor persons as long as no fee was charged. When the Bar Council promulgated its first formal Code of Conduct in 1981 it allowed direct access where no fee was charged but if a fee was to be charged then the only direct work permitted was advice to a foreign lawyer about matters which were not subject to proceedings in England or Wales, and checking publications (in any jurisdiction) for libel.    

As previously mentioned, during the 20th Century travel became easier and photocopiers were a great advance on copying by transcription but it was in the last decade of the 20th Century when computers, and particularly email, became common that the perception of the utility of the services provided by solicitors evolved. One the one hand, particularly in commercial cases, the growing use of email meant that the number of documents in a case which had to be reviewed at the "disclosure of documents" stage mushroomed and such work could only realistically be carried out by solicitors, not by the client themselves. On the other hand most ordinary people had (or at the very least had available to them) the ability to scan in and print out copies of documents as digital three-in-one scanners/printers/copiers became widely available.   

So there came to be a reassessment of the necessity of solicitors being a compulsory intermediary between client and barrister in civil cases. Solicitors would be needed in many, perhaps most, cases but on the basis that there was some specific identifiable need for solicitors in the particular case, rather than as a matter of course in every civil case.

For example, in legal proceedings about a disputed private right of way it may be feasible for the client to identify and collect together the potentially relevant documents a barrister might require when drafting pleadings for the proceedings as these are likely to be relatively few - perhaps a couple of dozen contemporary photos, a couple of dozen historical photos, less than 10 conveyances, and perhaps a score of historical letters or emails - and if the client were to be in any doubt as to whether some individual document was relevant they could include it in the documents provided anyway to be on the safe side.

However if the dispute, rather than being about a right of way, is a commercial dispute, in that case it can be difficult for someone who does not have legal training to reliably identify those documents which are, and those documents which are not, relevant and, as there may be tens of thousands of potentially relevant documents, the client cannot simply adopt the course of including in the documents to be provided to the barrister any document where there is any doubt in their mind about relevance because that would be likely to result in providing large numbers of irrelevant documents which it would not be cost-effective to pay a barrister to review. So in cases like this a firm of solicitors needs to be engaged. Solicitors firms employ not only qualified solicitors of different levels of seniority but also trainee solicitors and paralegals whose fee rates are much lower so that there can be an efficient "division of labour". Typically the task of identifying the relevant documents will be considered first by a senior solicitor who would consider the issues in the case, sample the available documents, and devise an initial computerised searching strategy such as, at its most basic, keyword searching. Those documents identified by the search - say 5,000 documents - would then be individually reviewed by perhaps two paralegals under the supervision of the senior solicitor, to produce a subset of relevant documents to be sent to the barrister. (Note: this is a simplified description of the internal process solicitors would use - in practice there would be some degree of iteration e.g. the senior solicitor would look at at least a sample of documents identified by the paralegals, and consider whether further keyword searches - or other more sophisticated searches - should be made and further documents reviewed.) 

Direct access to barristers makes a comeback

The County Court Act 1846 had been repealed by the County Courts Act 1888 which provided, in s.72, that it was lawful for "a barrister retained by or on behalf of any party on either side" to appear to address the court, thus following the position in the higher courts where barristers had rights of audience whether engaged directly or via a solicitor. But, as previously mentioned, the Bar committee had already resolved, in 1883, that as a matter of professional etiquette barristers would not see clients without the intervention of solicitors so that s.72 of the County Courts Act 1888, when enacted, would have made little difference in practice, in this regard. But it did mean that from then onward the restriction on direct access in the County Court had ceased to be a legal restriction and throughout the 20th Century it, like the restriction on access in the higher courts, had been purely a rule of the Bar Council. 

In 2001 the Bar Council established a working group chaired by Sir Sydney Kentridge QC which reported in 2002 that the Bar should again allow direct access to barristers for clients in civil cases (and allow barristers to take a proof of evidence from their own client). A key recommendation of the Kentridge report was that barristers should continue to be specialists in providing legal advice, drafting documents, and representing clients at hearings and should not undertake work which had traditionally been the domain of solicitors such as dealing with disclosure of documents and the formal "service" of legal proceedings. These would have to be done by the client themselves if a client instructed a barrister directly.

In 2004, the Bar Council amended the code of conduct to allow direct access in civil cases and in 2010 this was extended to family and criminal cases as well. Although the nature of some family cases, and the majority of criminal cases, is such that a solicitor will often be required, solicitors are no longer necessary because of a fixed rule but only where there is specific work which calls for their expertise, such as finding and interviewing defence witnesses in a criminal case.  


1. In order to keep the above short account readable, I have used the modern words barrister and counsel for those who appeared in court to argue their clients' cases but, certainly before the 16th Century, the first of those words is anachronistic. During the 14th Century counters were organised into a fraternity or guild known as the order of serjeants at law. In the 16th Century, when there was a great increase in cases, more junior counsel who had not been admitted as serjeants but who had completed their initial training in an Inn of Court and been called to the bar of the Inn, were allowed to practise in the court of King's Bench (though not in the court of Common Pleas) and became known as barristers. In the 17th Century the rank of King's/Queen's Counsel was established which was conferred on the most senior barristers. This rank took precedence over serjeants which reduced the attractiveness of the order to aspiring counsel and when all courts were opened to barristers in 1846, the order of serjeants dwindled and eventually died out. The last serjeant, Lord Lindley, died in 1921.

2. Similarly, I have used the modern word solicitor for those legal practitioners who carried out ancillary work connected with the progress of a case through the court but the meaning of that word has changed over the centuries. A solicitor was not originally a specific class of lawyer but was the name given to the function of anyone who "solicited causes". Later, in the 17th Century, the word came to be applied to the attorneys who practised in the chancery courts rather than the common law courts. The equivalent in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts were known as "proctors". In 1831 they came together in the Society of Attorneys Solicitors Proctors and Others not being Barristers Practising in the Courts of Law and Equity in the UK. In the 1870s the Judicature Acts merged the common law courts and courts of equity and those who were formerly named attorneys and proctors came to be known as solicitors. A Royal Charter in 1903 changed the name of the society to simply The Law Society  


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