Past members of Lincoln’s Inn, as of the other three Inns of Court – Inner Temple, Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn – include both barristers and those who joined the Inn but who for a variety of reasons never proceeded to be called to the bar; indeed before the twentieth century the latter category is very numerous. Solicitors or (as they were also known before 1875) attorneys were not generally members of the Inns of Court – see below.
If you have an enquiry about a possible past member of one of the Inns of Court but are uncertain which, in the first instance please contact just one of the Inns rather than all four. If your enquiry involves a member of another Inn the enquiry will be circulated as appropriate in order to avoid duplication of effort.
As a minimum, the record of any member will be an entry in the admission registers, giving the date of admission as a student member. In the Lincoln’s Inn admission registers additional information generally appears as follows: from the late sixteenth century a place or county of origin, from the early seventeenth century the name of father, and from the beginning of the nineteenth century age on admission. For the majority of members the only records are admission and date of call to the bar, if they became a barrister.
Famous Past Members
We are preparing some information sheets on some of our most famous members. Please click on the links for those currently available:
Mohammad Ali Jinnah
Sir Thomas More
Early Hong Kong members
The Inn's Printed Primary Sources
A series, The Records of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, was first published by the Inn between 1896 and 1902. It comprises the Admission Registers and the Black Books. The Admission Registers are in two volumes covering 1420-1799 and 1800-1893, with the second volume including an index to the whole. Volume 2 also includes the Chapel Registers: christenings (1716-1806), marriages (1695-1754) and burials (1695-1852).
The first four volumes of the published Black Books cover:
Vol 1: 1422 to 1586
Vol 2: 1586 to 1660
Vol 3: 1660 to 1775
Vol. 4: 1776 to 1845
Two further volumes were published in 1968 and 2001:
Vol. 5: 1846 to 1914
Vol. 6: 1914 to 1965
The Black Books include all calls to the bar; otherwise the information they yield on past members will generally be references to benchers active in the affairs of the Inn and other members who for one reason or another feature in the domestic records. Each of the published volumes has a useful general introduction – that to volume 5 is not confined to its period of coverage, but includes some retrospective treatment.
Sets of the published records are generally only available in large research libraries. In London, the main public library to hold a set is the Guildhall Library. The Admission Registers are out of print, but volumes 5 and 6 of the Black Books and a limited stock of a facsimile reprint of volumes 1-4 are for sale through Wildy’s Bookshop in Lincoln’s Inn: http://www.wildy.com/. Being out of copyright, the Admission Registers and volumes 1-4 of the Black Books have been subject to one of the mass scanning projects on the internet.
A considerable amount of very useful background and contextual information on the bar and the Inns of Court can be found via the Inner Temple Admissions Database website: www.innertemple.org.uk/archive/itad/index.asp This includes the following subjects:
Membership of the Inns of Court;
Legal Education and the Legal Profession to 1850;
Other Biographical Sources for Lawyers.
General Secondary Sources
Brian Brooks and Mark Herber, My Ancestor was a Lawyer. Society of Genealogists, 2006.
Guy Holborn (Librarian, Lincoln's Inn), Sources of Biographical Information on Past Lawyers. British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, 1999.
Angela Holdsworth (ed.), A Portrait of Lincoln's Inn. Third Millennium, 2007.
Sir Gerald Hurst, A Short History of Lincoln's Inn. Constable, 1946.
Sir Robert Megarry, An Introduction to Lincoln’s Inn (illustrated outline history of the Inn). Lincoln’s Inn, 2007.
Attorneys and Solicitors
Attorneys and solicitors often had - and still have - offices within Lincoln’s Inn as tenants. Although they could at one time be required to become members of the Inn the information held in the Inn’s Archives about individuals is very limited. For enquirers researching attorneys and solicitors the National Archives holds the bulk of the original records and a useful research guide is available online: Lawyers: Records of Attorneys and Solicitors
The professional body for solicitors in England and Wales is the Law Society. Although the Law Society Library no longer handles enquiries from non-members there is a guide for historical researchers on the Society’s website: How to Trace a Past Solicitor