The Puzzle of Judicial Education: The Case of Chief Justice William De Grey

Brooklyn Law Review, Vol. 75, No. 1, p. 143, 2009

58 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2009 Last revised: 17 Nov 2010

Date Written: March 13, 2009


Unlike civil law systems in which young lawyers choose between an attorney career track and a judicial one, Anglo-American legal systems mostly select their judges from the whole pool of bar members, regardless of the fact that the appointees may have had no experience with the court on which they are placed. Such a method of selection ensures that many judges come to the bench still needing to prepare themselves for their new positions. This problem is not a new one. At least by the seventeenth century, the specialization of legal practice in England meant that many neophyte judges had a great deal to learn. However, despite the importance of judicial education in forming the sort of judge an appointee becomes, neither modern scholars nor legal historians have given much attention to the issue. This may be due in part to the mystique of the common law judge who is supposed to have been trained on the way to the bench. And it may also be due to the difficulty of finding evidence, as most judges leave no trace of their program of self-education. William de Grey, named Chief Justice of the English Court of Common Pleas in 1771, did. A previously unexplored collection of archival material permits an at least partial reconstruction of his method of training himself for his new job. Examining the approach of de Grey and other eighteenth-century judges demonstrates that not only is the problem of judicial education not a modern one, but the various means by which judges have sought to solve it are also not unique to today.

Keywords: legal history, judicial education, jurisprudence

JEL Classification: Z00

Suggested Citation

Kadens, Emily, The Puzzle of Judicial Education: The Case of Chief Justice William De Grey (March 13, 2009). Brooklyn Law Review, Vol. 75, No. 1, p. 143, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Emily Kadens (Contact Author)

Northwestern University School of Law ( email )

600 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
United States

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