Council of Legal Education Archive

History of the Council of Legal Education

The Council of Legal Education (CLE) was established by Resolutions of the Inns of Court in 1852, following the recommendation that year of a Legal Education Committee of the Four Inns. The CLE, consisting of eight members under the Chairmanship of Richard Bethell Q.C. (later Lord Westbury), was entrusted with the power and duty of superintending the education and examination of students who had been admitted to the Inns and was to consist of an equal number of Benchers appointed by each of the Inns. Five Readerships or Professorships were set up, to each deliver three courses of lectures per year. Students were required to attend a certain number of lectures and to pass public examinations. The examinations were held thrice yearly, in Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity terms. The CLE was given the power to grant dispensations to students unable to attend all required lectures.

In 1872 membership of the Council was increased from eight to twenty and a compulsory examination for Call to the Bar was introduced. A further recommendation was made that the Council appoint a Committee of its members to be called the Committee of Education and Examination; this Committee later became the Board of Studies. A Director of Legal Studies was appointed in 1905.

The constant increase in the number of students and consequent growth in the CLE's activities led to the Council's decision in 1915 to appoint a permanent Finance (later Finance and Administration) Committee for the regulation of its expenditure and in 1916 to create the post of Council Secretary.

The CLE initially met in the Library of Lincoln's Inn. In 1903 it moved to 15 Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, where it remained until 1947. The CLE then moved to 7 Stone Buildings, where it was able to provide lecture rooms, common and reading room accommodation and canteen facilities for students. In 1964 the CLE gained the first home for law teaching with premises in Gray's Inn, donated by the Inn. In 1967 the Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL) was formally established on the site; it became an incorporated body in 1996.

In 1967, as a consequence of the institution of the Senate of the Inns of Court as a central body to represent the Inns, the CLE was reconstituted under regulation of the Senate, which now appointed the Chairman and five other representatives of Council, and which had general policy-making powers. For the first time the CLE had representatives from the Bar Council as well as from the Inns. A new system of education and training, drawn up by the CLE in 1967, was approved by the Senate, to take effect from 1969. This included the appointment of a professional law teacher as Dean of Faculty (later retitled Dean of ICSL), replacing the old position of Director of Legal Studies, and the inauguration of new practical training programmes.

In 1974, following the recommendations of the Pearce and Templeman Committee, a new body, the Senate of the Inns of Court and the Bar, was set up. The CLE was reconstituted under the Regulations of the new Senate, and its membership and functions redefined.

During the 1970s the CLE faced the major task of implementing the recommendations of the Ormrod Report (of the Lord Chancellor's Committee on Legal Education) and the Cross Committee (Advisory Committee on Legal Education) relating to graduate entry to the profession, and the transfer of Part 1 teaching to the universities and polytechnics.

The CLE continued to oversee legal education for the Bar until 1997. In that year the CLE transferred most of its responsibilities and assets to the ICSL. Its responsibility for supporting education and training for the Bar was passed to a new body, the Inns of Court and Bar Educational Trust (ICBET), while its regulatory function was passed to the General Council of the Bar. In 1997 the CLE ceased to operate.

Records of the Council of Legal Education

The CLE's surviving student records, dating from the 1930s, are at the time of writing in the custody of the General Council of the Bar. The remaining archive of the CLE was transferred to the Records of Legal Education Archives by ICBET in 1997. Access is open to most papers over 30 years old. Applications by bona fide researchers for accelerated access should be addressed to the Secretary of the Inns of Court and Bar Educational Trust, The Treasury Office, Middle Temple, London EC4Y 9AT, giving reasons for the request.

There is also a considerable quantity of information on the CLE in the archives of the four Inns of Court, including correspondence with the CLE, copies of the CLE's reports to the Inns, examination papers and results, and CLE certificates.

Copying of records: many of the CLE's minute books and volumes of documents are in a fragile condition and therefore may not be photocopied. Where this restriction exists it is noted with the class description.

Page last updated: 20th July 2020

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