Conference Lay Advocacy in the Premodern World, University of Turku

CFP: Conference Lay Advocacy in the Premodern World, University of Turku (Finland), 28-30 May 2018 (deadline 16 March 2018).

In Europe, both secular and ecclesiastical courts developed towards professionalization, and bar associations were established since the thirteenth century. In England, barristers obtained a monopoly on representing clients at court over the centuries. On the Continent, courts and bar associations regulated advocacy. Licensing was practiced especially in superior tribunals even before the rise of the liberal professions in the nineteenth century.

Professionalization tendencies went hand in hand with the ejecting of lay advocates from courts in many countries. For example, lay advocates (Winkelschreiber) were forbidden to appear in courts in the Austrian Empire in 1857. Issued legislation went as far as to threaten lay advocates with fines and short prison spells. Several other European countries followed with restrictions, and European-style regulation of advocacy was adopted in a number of American and Asian countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

But yet, especially in more peripheral regions, laymen with legal skills could have considerable space of action in courtrooms and outside of them. They could act in court on behalf of others, counsel people with legal problems, draft legal documents, and so on. Such legal literacy as human capital and an intangible knowledge asset provided a way for social mobility in the community. This could create tensions. The position of the intermediary was a position of power, also open to abuse. Self-learned advocates and legal literates could be criticized from both sides: for incompetence by the lawyer elite and for despotism, greed and partiality by the clientele.

Papers could discuss e.g.:
–       how “professional” and “lay” advocacy was defined
–       who acted as lay advocates
–       how lay advocates learned their trade
–       what kind of cases lay advocates handled (did they e.g. differ from those handled by professional advocates)
–       who turned to lay advocates (was the clientele of lay and professional advocates the same?)
–       whether advocacy proved a channel for social mobility
–       how lay advocacy was perceived by the legal profession
–       attitudes towards lay advocates (criticism, praise, etc.)
–       attempts to forbid or regulate lay advocacy
–       lay and professional advocacy as parallel phenomena

Confirmed plenary lectures will be given by Prof. Sir John Baker (University of Cambridge), Prof. Jane Burbank (New York University) and Prof. Kjell Åke Modéer (Lund University).

Deadline for paper proposals with abstracts (max. 400 words) is 16 March 2018. For more information, please contact Professor Mia Korpiola (mia.korpiola[at]