Long Hours for Law Clerks, 1865

From the Freeman’s Journal, 13 May 1865:

“The general half-year meeting of the Attorneys and Solicitors’ Society was held yesterday in the Solicitors Hall, Four Courts [now the Law Library]… to consider the propriety of giving a half-holiday each Saturday to their employees.

Mr Molloy observed that the early closing movement had been carried out in Dublin with great success.  The merchants of the city had generally adopted it, and he did not see why they should be behind the merchants. the law clerks of Dublin were in general a respectable class of men, and they deserved this half-holiday, which would allow them to pursue their business better on the Monday, and would also afford an opportunity for recreation to their employers also. He therefore moved that its meeting declared its opinion in favour of the Saturday half-holiday, and authorised the Council to communicate with the proper authorities and take such steps as might be necessary for that purpose...

Mr Gaussen also supported it.  For the past ten years he had adopted the system of allowing his clerks to cease business early on Saturday during the summer months, and it had worked very satisfactorily.  He just kept one person in the office to receive motions.

Mr Creagh thought the half-holiday would be altogether for the law clerks, and not at all for the solicitors’ benefit.  The law clerk on getting the half-holiday would go off and drink his salary. He was sorry to say, the greater part of the law clerks in Dublin spent their money to that way.

Mr Gibson had hoped the resolution would have passed unanimously, and he rather thought Mr Creagh would stand alone in his opinion.  He should not have said anything but for Mr Creagh’s observation regarding the clerks.  He knew there were in the body of clerks a great number of middling subjects, but there were others who were just as well conducted as the solicitors themselves, and just as respectable (hear, hear).

The motion was then put and passed unanimously…”

Subsequently, however, the Council felt that it had no authority to bind individual solicitors, and it was not until 1884, after much lobbying by the newly established Law Clerks’ Association, that the proposed half-holiday came into being.

Two decades of precious Saturday afternoons lost!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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