Cambridge, November 5, 1886, including the oration of Hon. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and the addresses delivered at the dinner.
“Each member is requested to notify the Treasurer of any change in his address as soon as it occurs; and new members, at the time of joining, are requested to send their names in full, with their home and business addresses. Present addresses of members are wanted, not only for the use of the Association, but also for the new and extensive catalogue of all the former members of the Harvard Law School, now in preparation by the Librarian, Mr. John H. Arnold. This catalogue will be published early in June next, and it is expected that a copy will be sent free to each member of the Association.”
In the work of Mr. Finch, Law Lecturer at Queen’s College, Cambridge, we recognize an undertaking which inaugurates in England the method of instruction established in this school by Professor Langdell seventeen years ago. Legal education in England may be said to be entering on a fourth stage. At a very early period the Inns of Court seem to have been, in effect, organizations clustering around the professors of the common law at London, maintaining the teaching and practice of the common law against the temporary popularity of the civil law. But, by the end of the sixteenth century, they had lost this character, and up to the first half of the present century systematic legal education in England was stagnant. What was given at the universities does not seem to have had any great value placed upon it. Lord Brougham once said, “I won’t say it’s a humbug; but it’s something very like it. When I was attending lectures on the civil law in Edinburgh, they were all in Latin. A set of Latin questions were proposed after the lecture to the students. Very difficult, indeed, some of them might be to answer, if a proper answer were required; but all we had to do was, if the question commenced with ‘Nonne,’ we said ‘Etiam;’ and if with ‘An,’ we replied ‘Non.’ ” The office of a practising lawyer was the only place in which the law could be learned, if at all. The eminent authority just mentioned thus sketched the process of legal training in his day: “It is a most melancholy state of things. There is nothing like education for law students now. When I was in the chambers of Mr. (afterwards Chief-Justice) Tindal, we seldom or never saw our master; we were told, ‘Copy whatever you can lay hold of,’ and with that injunction we were left to ourselves;” and Professor Dicey adds his testimony concerning the state of affairs at the present day: “He is put to make bricks without straw, or rather without having even been taught how bricks are to be made. The oddity of the thing is that he, after all, gets in due time, mainly by the process of imitation, to make pretty tolerable bricks.” Towards the end of the half-century an effort began towards a system more helpful and better suited to the dignity of the science of the law. The matter was taken up by the Society for the Amendment of the Law, and was vigorously discussed. A committee of inquiry of the House of Commons was appointed in 1846 to report on the state of legal education; and a commission, including Vice-Chancellor Wood and Sir John
- Fortescue, De Laudibus, c. 48–9; Gneist, Eng. Const., ⅰ, 393; Foes, Judges, ⅱ, 201, ⅳ, 249; Report of House of Commons Committee on Legal Education, 1846, p. 6; 1 Bl. 23.
- 12 Law Rev. 114.