From the Freeman’s Journal, 29 November 1843, this account of an early Solicitors’ Society meeting:

“The secretary read the… steps that had been taken [to prevent] the inconvenience of the solicitors being required by the bar to convey books from the Law Library… [T]he committee had written to Mr Dixon, father of the Bar, to convene a meeting, [who replied] stating that, unless called upon by a requisition from the members of the Bar, he had no power to do so…

Mr Mahony said the Law Library was the property of the barristers… and it was not too much that they should have a servant to attend in each of the five courts, to bring them such books as were required. The solicitor often lost half of what occurred during the hearing… by being sent for one book after another…

Mr A Fffrench protested [that] if a barrister said to him in an insulting manner, “Ffrench, go for a book,” he would reply – “Brewster, no I will not, go for it yourself” (laughter).*

*the solicitors were at the time engaged in legal action against Mr Brewster QC.

Mr Scott said there was another grievance that he thought of much more importance. When any documents were laid before counsel, it was necessary for the clerk to go some half dozen times or oftener to the barristers’ house before they were got back, and the custom was for the barrister to leave them with his servants in the hall, to be given to the messenger, and they were thus liable to be seen by strangers… he was sure it was only necessary to mention the inconvenience in order to induce the bar generally to discontinue the present practice.

Mr Ffrench said if a barrister did not send the papers home, an easy remedy was, not to send any to him again.”

170 years on, and some of us still forget to send back papers! Fingers crossed the advent of the photocopier allows for greater charity than the approach suggested by Mr Ffrench!

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