Korōnē (starry_diadem) wrote in little_details,

Legal Practice in California, 1850 -1880

While this is a small detail in the current fic I'm writing, I like to have the details right.  

I know that the California Bar Association was founded in 1919, and therefore oversaw the Bar examinations from that date.  What I'm trying to establish is what the practice was in the half century before that, specifically from the 1850s onwards.

What I *think* I've established is that by the mid 19th century there were a number of law schools in the US.  Graduates usually followed a career that combined an "apprenticeship" for several years with an established lawyer (where they "read" law and practised things like drawing up deeds and wills etc) with a period in a formal law school getting a more rounded education.  Each state had its own bar examination, the final hurdle before a man (and it usually was a man!) could practice law unsupervised and as a proper lawyer.

California achieved statehood in 1850.  If the Bar wasn't formally founded until nearly 70 years later, there had to be some interim system for training and graduating lawyers.  What I've not been able to do is determine what that is or how the Spanish-based legal practices of Mexico affected Californian law and for how long.  I'm assuming, for example, that  land law was most likely to be affected by Mexican legal principles (ie primogeniture)  but I'm not sure how this would affect something like a deed of partnership for a Californian ranch in the 1870s.

My POV character for the story I'm writing graduated from Columbia College, NY, in 1848 and moved to California after statehood was granted.  I'd be glad of any information (or googling hints) that would help me understand
 (i) if he was able to practise in California and what formal training/sanction he would need to set up his practice; and
 (ii) how far the legacy of the Spanish legal system would affect  a father's ability in 1870 to make his two adult sons equal partners with him in his ranch - if at all!

I've googled Californian legal history, Californian bar history, Californian legal practice/practise history (taking account of differing US and UK conventions there!) and variations thereof, to no avail.


  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.