bar, the, originally, the rail that enclosed the judge in a court; hence, a court or a system of courts. The persons qualified and authorized to conduct the trial of cases are also known collectively as “the bar.” From late medieval times in England the Inns of Court acted as training schools for men who were to plead causes in the courts, and when a student was judged to be trained in competence, he was “called to the bar” of the Inn; automatically he was then judged competent to plead at the bar of the courts. Modern bar associations, through which the legal profession regulates itself, derive from the Inns of Court. Attorneys must be admitted to the bar before they can practice law in the United States. The requirements for admission vary among the states, but generally an applicant must be of good moral character, have completed a stated course of study at a law school, and have passed a bar examination. The last two requirements were once satisfied by clerking and “reading law” with a practicing attorney. A lawyer can be prohibited from practicing law (disbarred) for conduct impeding justice, criminal acts involving moral turpitude, or unethical professional conduct. The first state to allow women admission to the bar was Iowa (1869), and Great Britain admitted women to law practice in 1919. There are 180 American Bar Association–approved law schools in the United States, the oldest being Harvard Law School, founded in 1817.
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