After the Singh hearing this morning, David Allen Green
took a small clutch of us to see Lincoln's Inn Fields. The exact workings of the legal profession in England are a little obscure to an American, but the gist is that there are four clusters of barristers' chambers around (known as Inns of Court) and near the big courts, Lincoln's Inn Fields being one of them. David claims it's the most beautiful of the three; I can't comment. It is laid out a lot like a residential square crossed with a university campus, so the quad in the middle is perfect green lawn and along the sides are buildings of varying ages that house barristers' chambers. David stopped to point out the building in which Dickens' Bleak House opens, part of which is modern (ie, it was there in Dickens' time) and part of which is medieval. Across the way there's a very large not-sure-how-many-centuries-old building, the library. We had a stroke of luck in that one of the library's curators came past and knew one of our group, and she offered us a quick tour. It is in fact a very beautiful building inside, utterly private; its upkeep and collections are paid for out of the rents collected from the barristers' chambers. The dining hall was set for lunch (it was noon, and lunch starts at 12:30). This is a hierarchical affair of lots of long tables, all perfectly set. One long bench at the front is for the bigwigs (David did say what you have to do to qualify as a "bencher" but I don't remember what it was); a number are for students; the staff sit at a set that was pointed out to me. The walls have many portraits of former members, one of which was Sir Thomas More, the named scholarship that paid David's way to become a barrister (althoug he later diverted and became a solicitor). At one end there's a giant tableau painted on the top part of the wall of some legal proceedings...in which there is a chap in green wearing a turban, who is a Muslim (he seems to be quite knowledgeable).
The library itself smells of old books in the best sense, but you could see was a bit confined in terms of space. I asked if there was any thought to making any of it available electronically. Our guide explained that most of their collection will never be avaialble in that form; they could themselves scan it in, but they won't. They don't, she said, throw anything out. She pointed upwards to a catwalk. The books up there, she said, are old copies of textbooks - because sometimes in a case you need to find out what the law was *at the time* of a particular case you're citing.
Originally, of course, you didn't - couldn't - go to school to become a lawyer. Instead, you learned the law by attending a number of dinners with the older, more knowledgeable members of the profession; the tradition persists (although now you go to school, too). There's a list here (http://wapedia.mobi/en/Lincoln%27s_Inn
) of some of the present and former members of Lincoln's Inn.
) says that LIF is the largest public square in London and is thought to have been the inspiration behind New York's Central Park. One thing about it is that the thick, stone walls and the design eliminate all the street noise from outside. So you walk through the gate and bang! you've gone back a few centuries.