[This weeks legal blog is both a day later than usual and a lot shorter than usual. This is because it is induction week and I have been busy giving talks at all the induction sessions. Normal service will be resumed next week, though I think I said that last week.]
Walking in to Middle Temple Inn for the first time, or any of the Inns of Court for that matter, is a somewhat disarming experience. Located deep in the heart of London's legal district the Inns are surrounded by one of the busiest areas of the capital. Step through the gate to middle temple however and you could be forgiven for thinking you were anywhere but.
The majority of the Inn consists of barrister's chambers surrounding the Fountain Court (picture below)
Despite being surrounded by the legal district the Inns give an area of peace and quite in which to work, eat and occasionally relax. Middle Temple itself was originally part of "The Temple", the central authority for the Knights Templar until they ceased to exist in 1312. The Inns were traditionally the centres through which legal training was provided to all law students though they ceased this role in 1852. However, they are still the only institutions with the ability to call people to the Bar and as such all potential and practising barristers must be a member of one. The choice of Inns is largely personal and will depend on an individuals preference. All trainee barristers must go through 12 "qualifying" sessions whilst on their Bar Professional Training Course before they may be admitted to the Bar. These take place in the Middle Temple Hall (below) and normally involve formal dinners though they can also consist of special lectures and others such occasions.
Middle Temple has significant history. It was the location of the first performance of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" in 1602 and was a favourite location of Sir Francis Drake. The lantern from Drake's ship, The Golden Hind, used to hang in entrance to the hall until it was destroyed by a German air raid in 1941. A replica now hangs in its place. When newly called barristers sign their names into the Call Book, they do so upon the Cup Board, made from the forehatch of the Hind.
Members of Middle Temple have included Sir Walter Raleigh, Charles Dickens and Henry Burke among others.