London Inns of Court Adventure in England
Many years ago, when Scott was a 21, he studied in London for eight months and had an opportunity to visit several of the Inns of Court. We recently traveled through London on our way to visit our daughter, who finished her high school on a year exchange in Warsaw. We took the opportunity to have lunch at the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple and to visit the ABA’s monument to the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede.
The American Inns of Court is designed to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the bench and bar. An American Inn of Court is a combination of judges, lawyers, and in Contra Costa County, law professors and law students. The Robert G. McGrath AIOC meets at the Lafayette Park Hotel eight times a year for dinner and to hold MCLE programs, and to enjoy discussions on matters of ethics, skills, and professionalism. American Inns of Court are based on the mentoring system used by the Inns of Court in England.
In the 13th century, the English Inns of Court originated as hostels and schools for student lawyers. Middle Temple is the western part of “The Temple”, the headquarters of the Knights Templar until they were dissolved in 1312. The Inns stopped being responsible for legal education in 1852, although they continue to provide training in advocacy and ethics for students, pupil barristers and newly qualified barristers. Most of the Temple Inn is occupied by barristers’ offices, known as chambers. One of the Middle Temple’s main functions now is to provide education and support for new members to the profession. This is done through advocacy training, subsidized accommodation and by providing events where junior members may meet senior colleagues for help and advice.
Middle Temple Hall is at the heart of the Inn, and the Inn’s student members are required to attend a minimum of 12 qualifying sessions there. Qualifying sessions, formerly known as “dinners,” combine collegiate and educational elements and will usually combine a dinner or reception with lectures, debates, or musical performances.
We were able to have lunch at the Middle Temple through our association with the American Inns of Court. At the lunch, we were intrigued by a neighboring table of 20 well-dressed young people. They looked too young to be barristers, and we were perplexed by their attendance at the Inn. We learned from their Head Master that it was a visiting class of high school seniors from Memphis, Tennessee. Their Headmaster had been a California attorney and law professor at Pepperdine before changing careers and taking the job as Headmaster of their high school. We recall that when we were in high school, neither of us had senior trips . . . . Times have changed.
Middle Temple is located on the north Bank of the Themes and is in close proximity to King’s College and the location where the Stand (City of Westminster) becomes Fleet Street at the City of London border. Within a five minute walk is Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (a pub in continual use since 1538 and rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666) and Dr. Samuel Johnson’s House. Dr. Johnson compiled the Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 which remained the most comprehensive and influential dictionary for over 100 years. Be sure to visit the Bronze statue of Hodge in the courtyard leading the house. (You can find it in Wiki.)
Our travels also took us to Runnymede meadow, the location at which, on June 15, 1215, King John sealed Magna Carta. Magna Carta had an impact on common and constitutional law as well as political representation also affecting the development of parliament. Runnymede’s association with the ideals of democracy, limitation of power, equality and freedom under law attracted the ABA to create a memorial in 1957. The crowds (non-existent) were surely smaller this year, rather than 2015, when the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta was celebrated.
We hope that you consider joining the wait-list for membership of the Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court or have the opportunity to enjoy a tour of “Legal London” by foot. As stated by Dr. Johnson: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”