Inns of Court

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Inns of Court

London's four Inns of Court—Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, the Inner Temple, and the Middle Temple—provided legal education to young men beginning in the 1300s. The Inns also became centers of intellectual and social activity in Renaissance England. Many of the men who attended them did not become practicing lawyers, but they used the Inns as a way to make connections with members of high society.

Beginning in the late 1400s, the Inns of Court became part of the growing humanist* movement. As in France and Italy, the lawyers of Renaissance England contributed to the growing interest in ancient cultures and history. By bringing together large numbers of students in the lively city of London, the Inns supported scholarship, creative writing, and patronage* of the arts and learning.

The Inns of Court also had a great impact on England's poetry and drama during the Renaissance. Life at the Inns included a steady diet of plays, dancing, and music. Many of England's finest Renaissance authors, including the poet John Donne and the playwright John Ford, attended the Inns of Court. William Shakespeare's plays The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night were also performed at the Inns.

(See alsoDrama, English. )

* humanist

Renaissance expert in the humanities (the languages, literature, history, and speech and writing techniques of ancient Greece and Rome)

* patronage

support or financial sponsorship

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Inns of Court. Legal institutions of medieval origin situated in London and responsible for the education of barristers. By the 14th cent. the bar was organized, like the guilds, as an association of the members of the Inns of Court. They were first used as accommodation and were a cross between the college, the club, and the trade union. Originally around twenty Inns were known to have existed of which only four survive: Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Gray's Inn, and Lincoln's Inn. The Temple was the London residence of the knights Templar until their dissolution and was let to lawyers in the mid-14th cent. Gray's Inn was formerly the town house of the Lords Gray of Wilton and Lincoln's Inn is thought to have belonged to Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln. In the 15th cent. the Inns gradually assumed responsibility for the education of students and today anyone wishing to become a barrister must first join one of the Inns. They are unincorporated bodies controlled by their senior members known as masters of the bench or benchers. When students are considered qualified for the profession they are ‘called’ to the bar by their Inn and entitled to practise in the higher courts of law.

Richard A. Smith

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Inns of Court, collective name of the four legal societies in London that have the exclusive right of admission to the bar. These societies—Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, the Inner Temple, and the Middle Temple (see also Temple, the)—date from before the 14th cent. They take their name from the buildings where originally schools of law were held, apprentice lawyers gathering to learn from masters of law, much as in guild training. Today the societies are more like clubs, although they still control admission to the bar. The Inns of Chancery were lesser societies (preparatory colleges for law), dependent on the Inns of Court; their importance declined in the 18th cent., and they disappeared in the 19th cent.

See W. B. Prest, The Inns of Court under Elizabeth I and the Early Stuarts, 1590–1640 (1972).

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INNS OF COURT

Organizations that provide preparatory education forenglish lawstudents in order to teach them to practice in court.

Inns of Court were founded in the beginning of the fourteenth century. Membership in an inn is tantamount to membership in an integrated bar association in the United States. Inns of Court have a common council of legal education, which gives lectures and holds examinations. Currently, inns have the exclusive authority to confer the degree of barrister-atlaw, a prerequisite to practice as an advocate or counsel in the superior courts in England.

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Inns of Court Four legal societies in London: Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple, and Gray's Inn. They date from the 13th century, and have the exclusive right to admit persons to practise as barristers in English courts.