Photograph of a barrister, 1893 (Catalogue reference: COPY 1/414/843)

This is a brief guide to help you with your research. Many records of lawyers survive, especially in archives of the relevant court.

The National Archives is the best place to look for historic records relating to solicitors and attorneys (former name for solicitors practicing in the courts of equity including Court of Chancery). For records of barristers see below.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out the dates your lawyer practiced as this will help to focus your search.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records of the Registrar of Attorneys and Solicitors

      Find out to which court the attorney was admitted to practise - they are likely to hold the records. The Law Society has records of the Registrar of Attorneys and Solicitors, set up in 1843, which might help you find the relevant court.

    • Records of barristers

      Find Barristers Rolls (1868-1986) in KB 4. There are earlier oath rolls in KB 24.

      You might be able to find out more about a barrister by contacting the relevant Inns of Court:

    • Records and resources of the Institute of Legal Studies

      Search for records relating to a number of organisations concerned with legal education at the Institute of Legal Studies and consult the institute's directories of lawyers at Senate House Libraries.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Websites

      Search The Inner Temple Admissions Database for biographical information about past members of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, one of the four London-based Inns of Court.
       

    • Books

      Consult the Law Lists: a directory of lawyers published annually between 1775 and 1976.

      The Law Society has a complete run of Law lists.  

Did you know?

In England and Wales an attorney was a lawyer who practised in the superior courts of common lawLaw developed by judges based on precedents established in previous trials, as opposed to statute law made by politicians. They dealt with the procedural steps of litigation but did not plead for their clients in court.

Until 1838 solicitors and attorneys had to be admitted to each of the courts in which they wished to practise. Each court kept its own records of admissions.

Solicitors performed a similar procedural role in courts of equitycourts that gave judgements according to conscience and justice rather than being bound by the strict rules of the common law courts. Solicitors and attorneys both represented private parties involved in litigation. In 1873 all solicitors and attorneys became Solicitors of the Supreme Court.