Law Society to investigate historical links with slave trade

Law Society: Nearly 200 years old

The Law Society has become the latest institution to start researching its relationship with historical slavery and colonialism.

The aim is to understand the extent to which it may have “supported, financed, facilitated or benefitted – either directly or indirectly – from historic slavery and colonialism through its activities during the 19th and early 20th century”.

According to the history books, the society’s origins date to 1823, when several prominent attorneys met to call for the formation of ‘The London Law Institution’ to raise the reputation of the profession by setting standards and ensuring good practice. This was to be housed near the inns of court.

By 1825 the term ‘London’ was dropped from the title and the society was founded on 2 June 1825. It acquired its first royal charter in 1831, as the ‘Incorporated Law Society’, and opened its building in Chancery Lane the following year.

A new charter in 1845 defined the society as an independent, private body servicing the affairs of the profession and in 1903 the society changed its official name to The Law Society in a supplemental royal charter.

The Law Society said: “Our research, which will involve an investigation of historical documents, archives and the Law Society’s own collection, will document the relationship of the organisation and its key figures with historical slavery and colonialism.

“The research was proposed by the Law Society’s Black and minority ethnic network and will be overseen by a steering group of members of the network and staff interested in the project from across the business.”

The society said it would share and discuss the report findings in the autumn.

The golden lions that sit atop the railings on 113 Chancery Lane were rescued from the British Museum. They are identical to those which watch over the Duke of Wellington’s tomb in St Paul’s Cathedral.

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