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The history of the profession of attorneys and solicitors in the eigihteenth century has a: double iinterest, First, the work done by them in the society of the time was wider than it has since. become, and this was a critical moment in their development.
Secondly, the history of attorneys and solicitors can be taken as typical of the growth of the professional classes and professiond organizations in England. This book is consequently as much a contribution to social as to legal history.
By the end of the seventeenth century there were many solicitors and attorneys; but their competence was in general low. A movement for reform culminated in the establishment of Law Societies, first in London and then independently in the provinces. Their early records reflect the members' struggles for recognition and standards of professional conduct.
Dr Robson describes, the. changing social character of attorneys, the methods by whlch they were trained, and the part 'they were able to play in local affairs; in banking and the administration of estates and in politics and local govemment. To illustrate his theme, he provides brief biographies of two attorneys of the period.
The final chapter surveys the solicitors.' gradual increase in status, from the contemptuous early eighteenth-century view that they were parasitic, dishonest and hypocritical, to the nineteenth century recogcition of them as a bulwark of society.