From the Freeman’s Journal, 23 February 1897, this story dealing with initial seating allocation in the ‘new’ Law Library, located in the Eastern Wing and replacing an older Law Library behind the Round Hall:
“ALLOCATION OF SEATS
Yesterday was a day of some excitement amongst the barristers at the Four Courts owing to the fact that the allotment of seats in the new Law Library was begun by the Librarian, Mr Robbins. Owing to the extraordinary omission to provide any sanitary accommodation in the Library all the arrangements for the transfer from the old Library were delayed by more than twelve months, the members of the Bar refusing to give up the old apartments until the Board of Works had fully completed the new. It seemed for some time as if nothing would ever be done to remove the dead lock, but ultimately the Board of Works provided the necessary accommodation, and from the progress made so far, it seems likely that the subscribers to the old Library will enter into occupation of the new Library next term.
So far have the arrangements gone that the Library Committee saw their way to allot the seats and yesterday, the distribution being in order of seniority, a very extraordinary and unique assembly of the oldest members of the Irish Bar appeared in response to the committee’s announcement to claim their rights. The practicing members of the profession who are in the courts and in the Library every working day were, as a rule, completely mystified as to the identity of some of the claimants; they had never heard of them, they had never seen them, but certainly when Thom’s list was looked up their names were found included, and it was ascertained that they had been called to the Bar in the thirties or forties, or some other antediluvian period.
Many of the leaders of the profession of the present day had to wait until the old, venerated but almost forgotten members had been attended to before they could select the desks where they will make up their cases in future. During the day, owing to the juniors having to wait until the seniors had selected, only about ninety seats were allotted, but the work will be continued today.
There are two hundred and sixty seats to be claimed, while the subscribers to the Library number about three hundred and fifty. At first sight this would seem to indicate insufficient accommodation, but when the non-working and the provincial subscribers and the number of men constantly engaged in the courts are taken into account, it may safely be supposed that every subscriber will find accommodation and never be at a loss for a desk at which to read his briefs and consult his cases. The new Library, at any rate, will be a vast improvement on the old.”
A description of the previous seating arrangements in the first Law Library may be found in Irish Society (Dublin) of the 15th November 1890:
“Only by prescription can the right to a particular seat in the Library be acquired. The prescriptive owner is entitled to turn anyone else out of it when he himself wants to sit down, but he cannot claim to have his ownership respected in his absence.”
The transition from an informal, happy-go-lucky arrangement to assigned seating accorded on the basis of date of call must have been a difficult one for junior – and not just junior – practitioners!