How to look for records of... Lawyers: further research

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1. Introduction

Attorneys and solicitors were the representatives of private parties involved in litigation. They were often officers of the courts who carried out the formal side of litigation on behalf of their clients but, unlike barristers, did not plead for them in court. Records relating to attorneys can be found among those of the court in which they were admitted to practise.

2. Records of attorneys and solicitors of the Central Courts

2.1 Rolls of attorneys

The Attorneys and Solicitors Act of 1728 (2 Geo 2, c23) provided that attorneys and solicitors should serve five years as clerks under articles, that they should take the oath prescribed and that their names should be entered on a roll. These rolls or books of attorneys are usually arranged alphabetically and in chronological order of admission.

2.2 Affidavits of due execution of articles of clerkship

From 1749 a further Act (22 Geo 2, c46) required that an affidavit attesting due execution of articles should be filed with the court within three months of admission. The registers of these affidavits will show to whom the attorney or solicitor was articled. These registers are mostly indexed. The affidavits themselves, or the articles, if they survive will also show the name of the parent or guardian, if any, who arranged the Articles.

2.3 Certificate books

From 1785 an annual certificate of admission was required before an attorney or solicitor could practise. Books of such certificates occur among court records. From 1790 the printed Law Lists were based on these certificate books.

3. Records of provincial attorneys

The records described above refer to the officers of the central courts. After 1830 attorneys practising in the Courts of Sessions and the Great Sessions in Chester and Wales were allowed to enrol in the Westminster courts. From 1843 the Solicitors Act (6 and 7 Vic., c73 s45) allowed attorneys and solicitors working in the Courts of the Duchy or Palatinate of Lancaster and the Palatinate of Durham a similar opportunity of enrolling at Westminster. From 1838 attorneys were unable to practice in a court other than the one in which they were enrolled unless they first signed a roll of the court concerned.

4. Records kept by the Law Society

The Law Society has records of the Registrar of Attorneys and Solicitors, set up in 1843. These include lists of admissions from 1845 with additional lists of admissions from about 1790 for most courts and some Registers of Articles of Clerkship from about 1860. The Law Society Library can carry out a search into the records for a fee. For a list of the records held at the library, see The Law Society website.

It is best to start with the printed Law Lists. However, the main deficiencies in the Law Lists are that those between 1775 and 1789 are known to contain names of persons never actually admitted to a court; and until 1861 they do not give the date of admission. Moreover the List for each year from 1790 only gives the names of those attorneys and solicitors who had taken out their annual certificates to practise and omits those not practising that year. Lists of attorneys and solicitors admitted in 1729 and 1730 were printed for Parliament.

More detailed records of an attorney or solicitor are included with those of the court to which he was admitted. For those admitted before 1750, you should start with the admissions to the court of Common Pleas since admissions to that court exceeded those to any other during the first half of the eighteenth century. After 1750, on the other hand, it is best to look first at admissions to the court of the King’s Bench.

6. Attorneys admitted to the Court of Common Pleas

Registers of articles of clerkship: An article of clerkship was the agreement binding a clerk to an attorney or solicitor which allowed him, after five years, to enter the profession in his own right. The registers are arranged in chronological order of filing with the court and no complete alphabetical index exists. In addition to the names of the clerks, the masters, and the persons proving the execution of the articles there are marginal notes which indicate the courts to which admission was finally made. This information is gained from the following index volumes:

CP 71/1 1758-1784
CP 71/2 1785-1867

Where the court of admission is that of Common Pleas the articles will be found in the series CP 5. Please note: There is a personal name index with the printed version of the CP 5 series list, available in the reading rooms at The National Archives in Kew.

Admission Papers, 1729-1838 (CP 5): These may include articles of clerkship, affidavits of due execution of articles, affidavits of payment of stamp duty and fiats for admission. In case of persons admitted in other courts who were seeking further admission to the Common Pleas, only affidavits of due payment of stamp duty or evidence of admissions in other courts may be found. These records contain papers of attorneys who did not complete their service under articles. Furthermore, not everyone admitted to the Common Pleas is recorded. The admission books described below are a more satisfactory record.

Admission Books 1724-1853: These are arranged alphabetically in two series running from 1729 to 1853. The first series contains the addresses and exact dates of admission of attorneys enrolled. The second series contains the same lists of admissions but gives only the county and year.

Series 1 CP 70/1 1729-1751
CP 70/2 1752-1775
CP 70/3 1776-1814
CP 70/4 1815-1848
Series 2 CP 72/1 1740-1819
CP 72/2 1820-1853
CP 72/4 1838-1843
CP 72/5 1843-1862
CP 72/6 1863-1875
Supplementary admission registers CP 69/1 1656-1761 (incomplete)
CP 72/3 1830-1844 (contains names of Welsh attorneys)

Admission rolls 1838-1860 (CP 8): These include the signatures of attorneys already entered in the volumes above, arranged alphabetically.

Rolls of attorneys 1730-1750 (CP 11): These are lists of various dates between 1730 and 1750 showing, alphabetically, the names and addresses of attorneys practising in the Common Pleas. The earlier lists in particular contain names not available elsewhere.

Oath rolls 1779-1847 (CP 10): There are 31 rolls comprising a general series, 1789 to 1843; Roman Catholics, 1790 to 1836; Quakers, 1835 to 1842 and ‘Qualifications’ (subscriptions to the Test Act and the Act of Settlement in addition to the usual oaths, 1779 to 1847). The rolls record signatures, arranged by legal term and year.

7. Attorneys admitted to the Court of King’s Bench

Admission papers between 1838 and 1875 including articles of clerkship have not survived. For specimen preservation of these records, see the section headed ‘Other Sources’. The affidavits described below are the main source of information.

Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles (KB 105, KB 106, and KB 107): on completion or execution of articles for the King’s Bench, an affidavit was filed with the Court and given a serial number. There are eight successive series of these affidavits. The first started in 1749, a second in 1817 and a third in 1834. Further series began in 1846, 1856, 1862, 1871, 1874 and 1875. Up to about 1840 they can be obtained by reference to the appropriate Indexes and Registers.

The Indexes are arranged alphabetically by the year of execution and give the name of the clerk, the attorney to whom he was articled and a serial number. The registers are arranged chronologically in serial number order. Next consult the series lists for KB 105, KB 106, and KB 107 as appropriate, using the serial number. The registers give sufficient details to identify the clerk.

Between 1840 and 1849 the affidavits are filed not according to the date of execution but according to the date of admission and are usually accompanied by affidavits attesting payment of stamp duty and by the judge’s fiat for admission. For these years, affidavits of admitted attorneys can only be traced by finding the date of admission from such admission papers as survive with the Law Society and looking at the appropriate bundle of affidavits for that year.

From 1849 there is a further change in the method of filing. From then until 1873 affidavits are filed according to the date of execution. Affidavits of persons admitted between those dates have not survived.

Indexes to registers
KB 170/14 1749-1784
KB 170/15 1787 – 1806
KB 170/16 1806 – 1818
KB 170/17 1818 – 1824
KB 170/18 1824 – 1831
KB 170/19 1831 – 1845
(missing) 1845 – 1860
KB 170/20 1860 – 1866
KB 170/21 1867 – 1873
KB 170/22 1874 – 1876 (July)

Register of affidavits of due execution of articles:

KB 170/1 1749 – 1784
KB 170/2 1785 – 1802
KB 170/3 1802 – 1814
KB 170/4 1814 – 1822
KB 170/5 1822 – 1829
KB 170/6 1829 – 1837
KB 170/7 1837 – 1845
KB 170/8 1846 – 1854
KB 170/9 1854 – 1862
KB 170/10 1862 – 1868
KB 170/11 1868 – 1871
KB 170/12 1871 – 1874
KB 170/13 1874 – 1877

Affidavits of due execution articles:

Series 1 Nos 1-3000, filed 1749 to 1775 are missing. Nos 3001-20,000, filed 1775 to 1817 are in KB 105
Series 2 Nos 1-15,000, filed 1817 to 1834 see KB 106. Note that some affidavits from this series have been placed with other admission papers in KB 107
Series 3 Nos 1-7079 and subsequent series filed from 1837 up to 1875 are, in so far as they survive, in KB 107. There are indexes to KB 107 for 1835 to 1875

Indexes to attorneys articles of clerkship:

KB 171/1 1838 Hil – 1855 Mich.
KB 171/2 1856 Hil – 1870 Mich
KB 171/3 1871 Hil – 1875 Mich

Rolls of Attorney: The rolls of attorneys are divided into what are termed ‘Private’ ‘Public’, and ‘Abstract’ rolls. The ‘private’ rolls contain the names of admitted attorneys arranged in order of date of admission under the first letter of their surnames, the addresses of the attorneys are also given and the name of the examiner. ‘Public’ and ‘Abstract’ rolls are similar to each other and do not contain the full addresses. In addition a ‘Wales Roll’ lists attorneys practising in the Court of Sessions and Great Sessions in Chester or Wales who were also enrolled at Westminster.

Private rolls:

KB 172/1 1729 – 1788
KB 172/2 1789 – 1803
KB 172/3 1803 – 1821
KB 172/4 1821 – 1832
KB 172/5 1832 – 1842
KB 172/6 1843 – 1851
KB 172/7 1851 – 1861
KB 172/8 1862 – 1869
KB 172/9 1870 – 1875

Public rolls:

KB 172/10 1790 – 1810
KB 172/11 1810 – 1838, Trin
KB 172/12 1838 Mich – 1849, Hilary
KB 172/13 1849 Easter – 1862, Easter
KB 172/14 1862 Trin – 1873, Mich
KB 172/15 1874 Hil – 1875, Trin

Abstract rolls: KB 172/16 (1729 – 1814)

Wales roll: KB 172/18 (1)

8. Attorneys admitted to the Court of Exchequer: Exchequer of Pleas

This was the common law side of the court. Until 1832 only the officers of the court itself were permitted to practise as its attorneys. Surviving admission records do not start until this monopoly was broken. Records are normally in series E 4 and you should consult the series list for E 4 first of all. However they must be ordered as index volumes in the following way:

Registers of affidavits of due execution of articles:

E 4/3 (1833-1855)

Rolls of attorneys (arranged alphabetically in date of admission order):

E 4/1 1830-1836
E 4/4 1836-1846
E 4/5 1846-1861
E 4/6 1861-1875
E 4/2 1830-1837 and 1844

The following rolls of attorneys admitted into other courts who sought to practise in the Exchequer are in order of signing:

E 3/6 1838-1839
E 3/7 1840-1843
E 3/8 1843-1849
E 3/9 1853-1858
E 3/10 1858-1872

Oath Rolls:

E 3/1 (1830-1842)

9. Attorneys admitted to the Court of Exchequer: Equity

The equity side of the court exercised a jurisdiction similar to that of the Chancery Court.

Entry book of annual licences: E 108/1 (1785-1843). This is a book of entries of annual licences taken out by clerks of the court and solicitors practising in the Court of Exchequer as a result of the 1729 Act.

Oath Rolls: E 200/1 (1772-1843) Names of solicitors admitted.
E 200/2 Records signatures of Roman Catholic solicitors.
Attorneys’ Certificate Books E 109/1 (1729-1730)
E 109/2 (1794-1841)

Certificates of admission:

E 109/3

10. Court of Chancery/Supreme Court of Judicature

Various affidavits of due execution of articles of clerkship, certificates of admission and other minor admission papers have survived in series C 216.

With the formation of the Supreme Court, embracing King’s Bench, Common Pleas, Exchequer of Plea and Chancery, the Petty Bag Office series of solicitors rolls became the main admission record for solicitors (the title of attorney was abolished).

C 216/21 1859-1875
C 216/22 1729-1791
C 216/23 1791-1823
C 216/24 1824-1836
C 216/25 1836-1858

These volumes are available on microfilm. There are also two volumes in another series of admission registers which give only the year and not the exact date of admission: IND 1/4613 (1800-1842), and IND 1/4614 (1842-1851), both of which are alphabetical.

Index to Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles :

KB 170/13 1874 Nov-1877 Nov
IND 1/29729 1877 Nov-1878 Dec
IND 1/29730 1879 Jan-1881 Feb
IND 1/29731 1881 Mar-1883 July
IND 1/29732 1883 Aug-1886 Apr
IND 1/29733 1886 May-1889 Jan

Index to Registers:

KB 170/22 (1874-1876 July)

Indexes to Articles of Clerkship :

IND 1/29712 1875 Nov-1885
IND 1/29713 1885-1889

The admission papers to which all the indexes above refer no longer survive.

Oath Rolls of Roman Catholic Solicitors :

C 217/180/5 1791-1813
C 214/23/1 1838-1867

11. Court of Bankruptcy

Admission Roll B 2/8 1832-1883 Chronological
Alphabetical registers of attorneys and solicitors: Town (i.e. London) B 2/9 1832-1883
Alphabetical registers of attorneys and solicitors: County (i.e. excluding London) B 2/10 1832-1883
B 2/11 1859-1883

12. Records of attorneys previously admitted in other courts

IND 1/4592 (3) 1843-1867
Oath Rolls KB 113 1750-1874
Residence Books KB 169/1 1790-1815
KB 169/2 1815-1829
Applications for Certificates J 89/6/1-4 (formerly in J 10) 1875-1889
Certificate Books J 89/23/1-39 (formerly in CP 9) 1786-1843

13. The Palatinate of Lancaster

Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles PL 23/1 1749-1785
PL 23/4 1785-1814
Registers of Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles PL 23/3 1749-1781
PL 23/4 1781-1823
Rolls of Attorneys (alphabetical listing of attorneys and place of residence) PL 23/6 1730-1785
Oath Roll PL 23/7/1 1730-1793
Register of Certificate to Practise PL 23/5 1785-1871
Minutes of Attorneys’ Assize Dinners PL 23/7/2 1790-1805

14. Attorneys in the Palatinate of Durham

Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles of Clerkship DURH 9/1 1750-1769
DURH 9/2 1768-1794
DURH 9/3 1794-1834
Admission Rolls DURH 3/218 1660-1723
DURH 3/217 1730-1843
Register of Certificates to Practise IND 1/10152 1785-1842

15. Attorneys in the Palatinate of Chester

Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles of Clerkship CHES 36/1 1728-1830
Registers of Affidavits of Due Execution CHES 36/2 1749-1792
Admission Roll of Attorneys CHES 36/3/1 1697-1728
CHES 36/3/7 1777-1806 (Chester court of Exchequer)
Oath Rolls CHES 36/3/2 1729-1754
CHES 36/3/3 1787-1793
CHES 36/3/4 1794-1800
CHES 36/3/5 1783-1821
CHES 36/3/6 1821-1830
CHES 36/3/8 1750-1787 (Chester court of Exchequer
CHES 36/3/9 1787-1806 (Chester court of Exchequer)
CHES 36/3/10 (not dated)

16. Proctors in the High Court of Admiralty

Miscellanea (HCA 30): These include papers relating to the admission of proctors.

Appointments: Admiralty Muniment Books (HCA 50). These include warrants relating to the appointment of proctors.

17. Proctors in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury

Correspondence and Papers of Officials, 1659-1857 – PROB 29.

A biographical index of proctors is filed before the PROB 39 series list at The National Archives.

18. Solicitors Registers of Admission donated by the Law Society

Rolls of Admissions for solicitors and attorneys 1790-1884 are in RW 3. They fill in the gaps in solicitors admission rolls in other record series referred to above.

19. Other sources

Articles of clerkship were subject to a stamp duty. The payment of the duty is commonly recorded with the payment of the duty on indentures in the Apprenticeship Books (IR 1). The books and their indexes (on microfiche) run from 1710 to 1811 and include masters’ names and addresses, clerks’ names, the date of the articles and, up to 1752, the names of parents or guardians.

On the recommendation of the Report of the Committee on Modern Legal Records published in 1966 some documents were preserved as specimens only. They include:

Admission Papers: Articles of Clerkship J 89/4/1-65 (formerly in KB 104 and J 8) (1838-1904)
Affidavits of Due Execution of Clerkship J 89/5/1-12 (formerly in J 9) (1875-1903)
Attorney’s Certificate Books of Residence J 89/7/1-47 (formerly in KB 112) (1785-1843)