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“On 19 October 1770, 18 local lawyers went to the pub. A decent turn out, but not quite up to the 420 or so we now get to our Annual Dinners. But this was no ordinary Friday afternoon social. This was the genesis of The Bristol Law Society. From what I can gather, a key feature of this coming together was to save money on the cost of increasingly expensive legal texts, showing the spirit of collaboration that remains a driving force of the Society through to today. Although the meeting notes do suggest that some of the early meetings involved spending 33 shillings behind the bar, which would probably get you about 200 pints of beer.  And suggests that minute taking has become somewhat more discrete since then.

The Society was incorporated in 1871 as Bristol Law Society (The): not quite sure what “(The)” is doing at the end, seems a bit daft to me. It is however (probably) the oldest surviving law society in the country and possibly the world”

Ben Holt, President 2019-2021, Extract from introduction to Bristol Law Society 250th Anniversary Journal

As a Society, we are immensely proud of our long heritage and the City within which generations of lawyers have qualified and practiced.  Over the years, we have been fortunate to have members who took an active interest in the history of the society and development of the profession within the City, and none more so, than Jack Lyes (President of BLS 1980 ). Jack has written many articles over the years and has generally been our ‘go to man’ when anniversaries such as the celebration of 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta, the WWI Centenary and our 250th anniversary celebrations have come thick and fast in the last decade.

A modern Law Society cannot however rest on its laurels and rely solely on its rich history.  Our mission is to support and represent our members and the local profession both today and in the future, but for those who are interested in how we got here, you should find a varied selection of resources to enlighten and bring to life the wonderful heritage of our Society and the local legal profession as it developed over the last centuries.

You can view our 250th Anniversary Book below including a list of all our Past Presidents.

Search our History archive here