New book celebrating 200 years of the Birmingham Law Society charts its rise through two world wars and innovations in technology.

Our Legal Community: Two Hundred years of the Birmingham Law Society

Birmingham Law Society

Dr Sally Hoban


Two hundred years ago, 19 lawyers met at the Royal Hotel in Temple Row to form the Birmingham Law Society. Although not the oldest local law society, it is senior to the national Law Society and is the largest regional law society.

It probably owes its success to a combination of good humoured professionalism and service to the community. It was fortunate enough to have a central city location with an extensive library. ‘Many glorious legal fights have been conducted with “ammunition” gleaned from its books.’ Training and education were equally central to its growth. Birmingham is probably small enough to be a community where many people know each other and big enough to offer the facilities of a large city.

This book is a celebration of 200 years of legal history. The standard of production for the volume is excellent, well-illustrated and researched. There are chapters on the society and public life, on its links with the local university, and on the arts and social and sporting life. The chapters on the two world wars are particularly interesting.

Not surprisingly for an industrial city there is an extensive chapter on technology. It is interesting to reflect on how and when technology has changed our working practices since the 1980s. Technology has come a long way since mobile phones were the size of house bricks, telexes – remember them – and the excitement of getting a fax. (Faxes were printed on shiny paper that faded over time.) People do not realise how noisy offices were years ago. I remember manual typewriters and then the first electric machines. Technology has always influenced working life. The first telephone was installed in the Birmingham County Court in 1883 and it had its own clerk who was paid £20.00 to operate it. The chapter on the benefits and failings of technology which keeps us at the beck and call of clients 24/7 should be widely read.

There is an informative section on local diversity. One of the first four female solicitors in the country was Mary Pickup who was admitted in 1922. Judging by the photographs, the current leaders of the local profession look disturbingly young considering they are celebrating a bicentenary. They are to be congratulated on a marvellously well-produced book – and a very successful 200 years. It is a great encouragement to the whole profession and shows what a local law society can achieve.

  • The book costs £20 with packaging and delivery or £15 if collected by hand. The book can be purchased by emailing Birmingham Law Society

David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury

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