For our second law library tour we visited the Middle Temple Law Library, one of four Inns of Courts that train lawyers for the bar (i.e. to become barristers); it is situated in the Temple area along with the Inner Temple in central London and just steps from the Royal Courts of Justice. The other two Inns of Courts are Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn lie on the opposite side of the Royal Courts of Justice. The Temple area, which includes the Temple Church, was originally the home to the Knights Templars, a band of fighting monks who protected pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land before rising to distinction as fiscal advisers to the King. They fell out of favor around the 1300s, were excommunicated, disbanded, and their lands were handed over to the lawyers, who have held it ever since.
Middle Temple Law Library was founded 1641 and has one of the largest collection of American law outside the U.S. The reason for this being while America was still a colony of the crown, wealthy land owners would send their sons back to the UK to be trained in the law before returning home to practice in the Colonies. One of the most fascinating items on display at the Library is a copy of the American Constitution with read marks be several names indicating those signers that were members of the Middle Temple. This is also why American legislature is so similar to British legislature; and in fact, there is still a process of cross-training that takes place today.
The piece de resistance was our trip to the sumptuous Prince’s Room (formerly known as the Smoking Room) and the beautiful Great Hall, passing, of course, the very hall where Bridget Jones’ Diary: Edge of Reason was filmed…to know Colin Firth sat in the same room where I stood and breathed…life-changing!
Side Note: What is the difference between a solicitor and barrister? I learned that a solicitor is someone you go to for legal advice but a barrister is the one that can represent you in court. Do we have an equivalent in America? No, we don’t. Lawyers here train for the bar and once they pass they can not only offer legal advice but represent their client in court.
For more interesting facts or to check out the library catalog visit them at http://www.middletemple.org.uk/library-and-archive/library/