History of Faculty

THE Faculty of Advocates as a body dates back to the foundation of the College of Justice in 1532, although individual Advocates were probably working in the courts even earlier. It has had a central role in maintaining and developing Scots law as a distinctive legal system.

All Advocates are members of the Faculty, which requires lawyers who wish to become Advocates to be trained to a high standard in the skills of advocacy. The aim of the Faculty is to secure that high quality legal advice and representation is available to anyone who needs it, throughout Scotland.

Advocates appear in courts and tribunals all over Scotland as well as in the UK Supreme Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2014, the then Lord President, the Rt Hon Lord Gill, said the qualities which the Faculty represented were: “…a commitment to excellence, a commitment to scholarship and learning, a commitment to the noblest ideals of professional conduct, and, above all, a commitment to justice for all in our society.”

Over the centuries, the Faculty’s membership has included a number of celebrated figures such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Boswell and Alexander McCall Smith.

Dame Margaret Kidd was the first woman to join the Faculty, in 1923. In 1948, she became the first woman in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth to be appointed King’s Counsel, or take Silk, as it is also called.  As Keeper of the Library from 1956 to 1969, she was the Faculty’s first female office-bearer.

The distinction of being the first woman appointed a Senator of the College of Justice  (1996) belongs to Lady Cosgrove, who, as Hazel Aronson, joined the Faculty in 1968. She served in the Inner House, another female first, and retired in 2006.

The Advocates Library dates from 1689, and by the 1850s it had become, in effect, Scotland’s national library. In 1925, the Faculty gifted to the nation some 750,000 non-legal books, pamphlets, maps and sheet music, and the National Library of Scotland was established.

Today, the Advocates Library is widely regarded as the finest working law library in the UK.