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12 - Advocates’ Hats, Roman Law, and Admission to the Scots Bar, 1580–1812

from DEVELOPMENT OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 October 2017

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Summary

The final ceremony for admission as an advocate before the College of Justice in Scotland formerly was the delivery of a speech in Latin on a text of the Corpus iuris civilis from a corner of the bench. The intrant advocate wore a hat for this ceremony. This chapter discusses the procedures for admission as an advocate to argue that the ritual of wearing a hat had a symbolic meaning central to the aspirations of the Faculty of Advocates. Eventually misunderstood, the ceremony was dispensed with in the early nineteenth century.

In Redgauntlet (1824), Walter Scott reveals a considerable amount of information about the ceremonies and exercises for admission as an advocate of the Scots Bar in the period immediately prior to the major reforms in the administration of justice, of which he was a sometimes hostile witness, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Much of the action of Redgauntlet is developed through letters, and Scott makes full use of the epistolary form to reveal the individual natures of the correspondents. The main characters are two young men, just embarking on adult life, both of whom have trained in the law at Edinburgh. At the start of the novel, one, Alan Fairford, is undergoing the final stages of his trials for admission as an advocate. The other, Darsie Latimer, has gone to wild and dangerous Dumfriesshire in search of his identity and, in the modern colloquial sense, himself. We learn of Fairford's passing of his private examination in Scots law. His public examination was based on a thesis on D 18.6, de periculo et commodo rei venditae. This concerns the passing of risk in sale. Until 1812, it was the practice of the intrant to the Faculty to read a Latin lesson before the Lords of Session on a “law”, allocated by the Dean of Faculty, taken from the title which had been the subject of the thesis. Darsie Latimer refers to this practice in his first letter to Alan Fairford: “the cramp speech has been spoken more solito from the corner of the bench, and with covered head”.

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Law, Lawyers, and Humanism
Selected Essays on the History of Scots Law, Volume 1
, pp. 330 - 370
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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