What is serjeant-at-law?


The Serjeants-at-Law (postnominal SL) was an order of barristers at the English bar. The position of Serjeant-at-Law (servientes ad legem), or Sergeant-Counter, was centuries old; there are writs dating to 1300 which identify them as descended from figures in France prior to the Norman Conquest. The Serjeants were the oldest formally created order in England, having been brought into existence as a body by Henry II. The order rose during the 16th century as a small, elite group of lawyers who took much of the work in the central common law courts. With the creation of Queen's Counsel (or "Queen's Counsel Extraordinary") during the reign of Elizabeth I, the order gradually began to decline, with each monarch opting to create more King's or Queen's Counsel. The Serjeants' exclusive jurisdictions were ended during the 19th century, and with the Judicature Act 1873 coming into force in 1875, it was felt that there was no need to have such figures, and no more were created. The last Serjeant-at-Law was Lord Lindley.

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Serjeant-at-law - Organisation - Precedence, Status and Rights of Audience
... Only Serjeants-at-Law could become judges of the common law courts this rule came into being in the 14th century for the Courts of Common Pleas and King's Bench, and was extended to the Exchequer of Pleas in the 16th century it did not apply to the Court of Chancery, a court of equity, or the Ecclesiastical Courts ... The Serjeants-at-Law also had social privileges they ranked above Knights Bachelor and Companions of the Bath, and their wives had the right to be addressed as "Lady -", in the same way as the wives of Knights or Baronets ...