I is for the Inns of Court #atozchallenge

This is Fountain Court in Middle Temple

For the next two days I’m going to cover London’s legal system. Well the beauteous buildings and spaces that house the purveyors of befuddling shamanism that passes for a legal system.

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With the River to the right and the fence of the Inner Temple Gardens to the left and one of the rather splendid dragons that mark the boundary of the City of London ahead this is where to commence a ramble through the Inns of Court.

Now it goes without saying that the flexibility and all round splendour of the Common Law system we use in England and Wales is the best in the world. In theory, anyway, because all legal systems deal with people and are run by people and inevitably flawed.

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A different sort of raptor in Lincoln’s Inn, probably to scare off the pigeons

One aspect of the system here is what is called the ‘split profession’. In most other countries the legal system comprises advocates, who help the general populace determine their legal rights and judges who decide which advocate is doing his or her job best, or whose lies are the least-worst of the two.

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Sometimes I feel my life is a surreal experiment in ingesting mind altering drugs, just by standing next to someone on the tube; these weird bubbles brought to mind the 1960s series The Prisoner. Part of Lincoln’s Inn

To be different, here in the UK we have two sorts of advocate. The Solicitors – oddly named to sound like prostitutes but given what some people think about lawyers perhaps not so bad a title after all – and the Barristers – who are called to the bar and given the amount of red plonk they consume, another apposite title.

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A typical staircase, listing the barristers who have a tenancy

Still with me? Right, well, for quaint historic reasons Barristers – note, not Baristas who shout a lot and serve up confusing sounding concoctions – actually, maybe that works too. Barristers have to be sole practitioners which means they work alone, no buddying up or forming large grey-faced corporations of lawyers. That’s left to the Solicitors.

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Everything is quaint, even reception – Gray’s Inn

Barristers also dress up – professionally gender-curious, they wear hose and ermine and wigs and buckled shoes whatever their AAB status. They get to stand in court, call old men in even grander wigs M’lud and Yer Honour and speak for hours and hours.

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The signage is pretty crap, TBH

They also rent rooms, rather than offices. Which brings us to why they are such a brilliant and stupid construct.

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But the gates are awesome

Stupid because working as a team is what the law is all about; brilliant because it means most of the places they inhabit are quaint old buildings with staircases and are called chambers, which sound suspiciously like places where you shit but the only shit you find there, in my experience, is some of what passes for advice.

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Wherever you go, there’s another passage to head down – what might you find?

Do not get me wrong: the vast majority of barristers are bright, caring people who come into the profession to do good, do right and then find themselves making money and morph into rapacious capitalists. It’s the same across all professions, except perhaps the oldest where it was always just about the money and makes it the least hypocritical.

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And some – like this exit from Lincoln’s Inn – are truly spectacular

These Chambers, at least the old and stunning ones are found in the quaintly named

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Lincoln’s Inn

Inns Of Court

of which there are three principle Inns – you may note an alcoholic theme here. Each has its own character, each is beautiful and open to the public and each creates a sense of peace and tranquility in the centre of the City.

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Gray’s Inn

You can feel the brains whirring as more and more creativity is spent on finding ways to keep some miscreant out of jail of help set up a Prime Ministerial Panamanian coin-laundrette.

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Middle Temple

The best thing is the garden in each Inn; they are beautiful places to pass a tranquil lunch time if your shoe leather has worn as thin as your tolerance of legal cheap tricks and clever wheezes.

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Lincoln’s Inn

Starting from the Embankment which we visited the other day and sitting close to Temple Tube station we have the Inner and Middle Temples.

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Knight’s Templar

Many people hunt out the rather lovely orangey sandstone church that is, as the Temple name suggests, the Temple Church and tied into The Knights Templar as featured large and magnificent in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

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Temple Church

There are free lunchtime concerts here if you want a snoop around.

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The Church and the Templar again

When I worked in the City I’d sneak into Temple Gardens to eat a sandwich and listen to the cricket. Quite the most perfect way to get away from whatever strains the day had tossed at me, or tossed me into depending how bad things had gotten.

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Yes, Lincoln’s Inn

The Inn was nearly destroyed in the Peasants Revolt in the 14th Century and during the Civil War in the 1600s it was shut to business. It took a fearful pounding during WW2 too but lawyers always find a way, don’t they?

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Poor relation?

Moving north across Fleet Street from Middle Temple Lane and up Chancery Lane you pass the home of the Solicitors Branch, the Law Society.

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It sort of looks like this only not quite so grand

Its building is today clad in a canvas but normally it is a rather nice, if unspectacularly flat lump. I’ll be honest – the Barristers do it better.

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A typical way into the Inns – you could easily miss it; that’s London, hiding its treasures.

However once beyond it, take any of the roads or passages or gates on your left and enter Lincoln’s Inn. I love the sense of peace and openness here. Further to the West is the rather splendid open space of Lincoln’s Inn Fields where I watched lot of lunchtime netball as a young man. I was just interested in the tactics.

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Everywhere you go, they want you to be a Pooh: ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes i just sits’ – A Bear of Little Brain.

Leaving by yet another short passage, this time into High Holborn and still heading north, you cross the busy traffic and enter Gray’s Inn via one of many little walkways. There’s something rather sinister about Gray’s Inn I feel with its uniform red brick and sharp yellowy pointing, like it’s trying to confuse you as to where you are and which building you should be going to.

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The buildings are a bit samey – the guy in bronze who looks like Shakespeare is his contemporary Francis Bacon – a brilliant man

But once again the gardens are vibrant and serene if rather sepulchral in the shade. Linger, but do not snooze; remember nowhere in London has there been a greater concentration of criminal minds, charlatans and con artists; surely such moral turpitude has to have left a trace in the air?

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Middle Temple hall

 

Disclaimer: once I was a Solicitor and honorable and committed Officer of the Court. There is a respect and rivalry between the professions but generally the men and women who enter it do a fine ethical job – but you don’t want to hear that, do you?

 

 

This is part of the 2016 A to Z Blogging challenge. Please click here to find your way to other participants.

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About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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36 Responses to I is for the Inns of Court #atozchallenge

  1. Many ridicule the pomp and ceremony that attach to the higher ecehlons of the British legal systems (I am assuming the Scottish system is as tied to tradition as is that in England and Wales), but I rather fancy that at the root of that is the same as is at the root of criticism of the ability of the wealthy to manage their tax affairs — pure, unadulterated envy. I certainly wish I had the need and opportunity to have my tax affairs professionally managed. All I have ever been able to do is own up, pay up and shut up!

    Keith Channing A-Zing from http://keithkreates.com

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      Envy has its place but so does the feeling it isn’t meant for us a sort of protective snobbery. And while the practitioners are often worthy and well meaning they work in a structure that is far from, and feels far from accessible to all

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Beautiful. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fiona says:

    Prime Ministerial Panamanian coin-laundrette? In South Africa, the State President has a swimming er.. fire pool. All a bit like your watching netball for the tactics. Beautiful buildings, thank you.

    BTW, we also have a split system here with lawyers (solicitors) and advocates (barristers) who dress like crows but fortunately no wigs or funny shoes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      A legacy of you imperial roots . another apology! Re the PM piece it’s hot news in the UK how our leader has had links exposed to dodgy off shore tax havens

      Like

      • Fiona says:

        Yip, it is. The Panama Papers have had a number of people scurrying around here, too. However, it’s been largely overshadowed by what’s happening around Zuma, the Constitutional Court ruling and the Gupta family which has now fled SA. Interestinger and interestinger….

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Gulara says:

    I learnt a lot, including info for my main job 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mick Canning says:

    Thanks, Geoff. I feel I understand our legal system a little better, now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. trifflepudling says:

    It all reminds me of Jarndyce v Jarndyce!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When I work on Essex Street (just off Fleet Street) I spent many a lunch hour munching on a cheese and pickle sandwich in Temple Gardens. Who knows? Could we have had lunch together?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ritu says:

    Just catching up after my first day back at school!
    Another great post Geoffles!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. noelleg44 says:

    This complex is so old! It is one of the central places in the Shardlake mystery series by CJ Sansom, It’s nice to see what I’ve only read about.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ali Isaac says:

    Very entertaining post, Geoff, and some beautiful buildings and green open spaces I wouldn’t have expected to see in London.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. jan says:

    Seeing as how the British legal system is the best, I won’t try any of my American lawyer jokes on you! Lol. Lovely stroll through the inns!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Helen Jones says:

    You must be having a marvellous time putting these posts together, Geoff! I do love hearing about your rambles around London 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Well,I thought you were leading us into a Dickensian quote, as Mr Bumble said ‘the law is an ass…….’ but then I came to The Disclaimer. It’s such a lovely part of London – and mysterious too with so many little lanes disappearing darkly off to the side…….. I still don’t understand the difference between solicitors and barristers. Is it that one does the personal law work for you and the other represents you in court if you have done something dastardly?

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      The lines are blurred these days. Previously only solicitors advised the client direct while barristers gave solicitors an opinion that they included in their advice. If the matter came to court previously only barristers could appear before the judge but now solicitors can become solicitor advocates right up to the Supreme Court. One day the professions will fuse…

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Annecdotist says:

    You have so much fascinating London knowledge. Do I detect a non-fiction book in the making?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Another excellent job, Geoff

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Judy Martin says:

    I didn’t know anything about the Inns at Court. Fascinating walkthrough, Geoff! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: April A-Z Challenge: Meet & Greet | A Texan's View of Upstate New York

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