How to trace past solicitors and law firms

We can help if you need to trace old solicitors and find out what happened to law firms. For example, you might need help if a family member wrote their will decades ago using a local solicitor, but all trace of them has now gone.

This guide covers the resources held by our library and other organisations that can help. Be aware that some resources are very old and fragile and may only be used by library staff.

Our catalogue Library Search has more information about the resources we hold on solicitors and law firms, including those listed here. Search the Common Queries database using the phrase “historical records”.

Non-members

If you’re not a Law Society member, we can do the research for you. This costs £20 plus VAT per 30 minutes. If you'd like to discuss this further, email us or call:

020 7320 5946

If you’d like to visit our library in person, we have a non-member day pass scheme.

Law Society library resources

The Law List (1775 to 1976)

The Law List was an annual directory of individual English and Welsh solicitors. It was published under various titles from 1775 to 1976 and continued by various other annual directories to the modern day.

A solicitor’s name normally appears in the Law List the year after they were admitted to the roll of solicitors. They remain until they retire, die or are struck off, but the Law List does not show why their name was removed.

Solicitors are listed in two separate sequences for:

  • solicitors working in London
  • solicitors working in the country, ie outside London.

This collection is held on open access in the main library.

A collection is also held at Guildhall Library which is open to the public.

History of Firms (1760s to 1980s)

This manuscript tracks law firm name changes and mergers for over 200 years. It consists of seven large handwritten volumes. Our library staff have compiled an index.

Admissions to the Incorporated Law Society (1878 to 1962)

This is a simple list of the names of those admitted to the roll of solicitors, in chronological order by month and year. It’s in four manuscript volumes. It gives no other details, just names.

Proposed members [of the Incorporated Law Society] (1878 to 1887; 1894 to 1962)

Six volumes listing information about each proposed new solicitor member. It includes:

  • name
  • address
  • proposer
  • admission on roll
  • in weekly circular
  • ballotted for
  • letter sent
  • remarks
  • date they became a member

Richards’ Roll: Attorneys and Solicitors (c1200 to 1906)

The content is very selective and contains brief biographies of individual solicitors. There is an A to Z index. It was compiled in the early 20th century by the solicitor W U S G Richards.

Law Society Gazette (1903 to present)

The Law Society Gazette contains obituaries and notices about individual solicitors being struck off or suspended. The earlier volumes are worth checking as the small size of the profession meant that every obituary sent in was published.

Registers of articled clerks holding office while serving under articles (1907 to 1970)

Articled clerks are now called trainee solicitors. They should not be confused with solicitor’s clerks.

We hold two volumes containing the names of articled clerks who held other jobs, as they needed permission to do so. Their other job and details were kept in these registers. They contain:

  • name of articled clerk
  • the solicitor they worked for
  • office address
  • order and date
  • details about the nature of the order

Register of Articles of Clerkship (July 1932 to 1958)

This is in five volumes containing:

  • remarks (including date of admission)
  • name and address of clerk
  • name and address of solicitor
  • name and address of other parties
  • permit
  • date of articles
  • examination
  • term of service
  • date of entry into register

Index to Register of Articled Clerks (1937 to 1968)

A sequence of alphabetical indexes to articled clerks covering the years 1937 to 1968. These only contain names and a number that relates to the volume of the Register of Articles of Clerkship. We do not hold all the main registers that relate to all these indexes.

Biographies

Our library has a small legal history section. This includes biographies and histories of individual solicitors and law firms. To check if we hold a book on a person or firm, search our catalogue.

Other organisations

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) records (1993 to present)

The SRA holds records on individual solicitors and law firms from 1993 onwards. To request a record, contact the SRA by email or call:

0370 606 2555

Society of Genealogists

The Society of Genealogists can help with enquiries about past solicitors.

It has several resources including:

  • Cockerill’s card index of past solicitors – this covers biographical and career information for provincial solicitors and attorneys from the 16th century to 1900, but mainly the 18th and 19th centuries
  • an index by Brian Brooks covering solicitors and attorneys
  • an index covering solicitors from the Bristol area

The National Archives

The National Archives holds court records, which include names of attorneys and solicitors who practised at the various courts.

See the National Archives’ guides to: