Bristol Law Society is the oldest local Law Society and indeed was founded before the national Law Society. On 19th October 1770, 18 solicitors and attorneys-at-law met in the Bush Tavern on Corn Street to form themselves into a professional society. At that time Attorneys practised in the Common Law courts, acting as advocates in the lower courts and instructing members of the Bar to appear in the higher courts, whilst solicitors were entitled to practise in chancery, mainly concerned in matters of land and trusts.
The first members of Bristol Law Society were George Birch, John Blagden, Thomas Brigstock, Thomas Brooke, Daniel Burges, Edward Daniel, Joseph Fowle, Thomas Harford, Joseph Hawkswell, Joseph Horwood, James Hughes, Jacob Kirby, Edward Parker, John Seager, George Booth Tyndall, Francis Ward, William Webley, and Nathan Windey. The Society met fortnightly at the Bush Tavern to discuss questions of Law over a convivial drink or two and pooled money to buy books to start up a legal library. Initial funding of the Society came not from subscriptions but from prizes won on the state lottery and also from fines levied on members who were late to meetings or who failed to attend.
From 1775 onwards, Bristol Law Society held an annual dinner to which not only members could come, but also to which the Chamberlain of Bristol was invited. It probably helped that the Chamberlain at the time was Hawkswell’s brother.