Medieval Origins: The Solicitors

Initially the work of solicitors had legal roots as it is currently the case in British or Portuguese law, since both the British solicitor and the Portuguese solicitador maintain in both countries some competences related to those of the current administrative agents, apart from those related to the professions of lawyer and barrister.

As an example of this spirit of sensitization of the administrative departments and the defence of the interests of the citizens, we can mention the study concerning the Royal Documents in the XVII Century. Some Diplomatic News, by the Permanent Lecturer of Diplomatic Palaeography of the University of Extremadura, Pedro Luis Lorenzo Cadarso, wherein it is reported that “In the 15th Century, and for a long time, Royal Decrees lacked a pre-established system for their communication, but the continuous requests for information from the barristers and solicitors that swarmed through the Court led to establish the practice of hanging a notice board announcing the decisions that had been taken that day, including royal decrees.

In this century, there are some provisions that refer to the solicitors, including the Pragmatic issued by Don Fernando and Dona Isabel in Toledo, in 1480, and in Alcalá, dated 9 April 1498 (Law 10, Title II, Book IV of the Novísima Recopilación de las Leyes de España – a systematization of Spanish Law, published in 1806, which was also used as a textbook for more than a century-), declaring the non-compatibility of the professions of solicitors and agents with those of of counselors, mayors, oidores, officials of the Public Treasury, etc.

Oscar Marín says in his book Gestores de la Real Justicia: Procuradores y Agentes de las Catedrales Nuevas en Madrid that “Because of the financial urgency of the Crown , from the first five years of the new century (1500) such concessions (the management of collections and the administration of the Reales Novenos – royal tithing) – became somewhat restricted; A little later, some concessions ran the risk of being suspended. Consequently, its negotiation in the Court occupied the first issue in the agenda of attorneys, solicitors and agents.”

This way, and to the despair of the Spanish citizens of that time, during the XVII century the files became increasingly complex, in terms of the use of standardized documents and in the volume of documentary units and administrative acts they contained. To be familiarised with the procedures – and to be able to write the documents properly – became a matter of experts, so that a mass of barristers and solicitors could earn their living working for the councils and men who wanted to ask or inform the king about something, in addition to publishing forms (of a more than doubtful utility) of letters for use by those who decided to do it themselves, such as the Formulario y arte curioso de escribir cartas misivas, published by Juan Vicente in 1599, as Lorenzo Cadarso explains. In any case, all the communications exchanged between the Court and the kingdom was already in writing.

Rogelio Pérez Perdomo, dean of the School of Law of the Metropolitan University of Caracas, in his study “Los abogados americanos de la Monarquía Española”, performs a social and political analysis of the legal profession during the sixteenth century in the American colonies. In this work, he describes the picturesque panorama of characters that circulate in the halls and courts, in a semblance that could well be extrapolated to the situation of the Spanish Court: “The solicitors, also called tinterillos or pica-pleitos, were true substitutes for lawyers in any of their activities. They did not have a formal legal education, but they could boast of a practical knowledge of law. They were not registered before the Court or before any public or private body. They were of modest social origin, and consequently, their fees had to be also modest, … Their modest charges and the greater cultural proximity with the majority of the population could have been a terrible competition for the most socially distant lawyer. As the judicial procedure was written and the parties could represent themselves, there was no impediment for them to be actually advised by tinterillos.

In the seventeenth century the procedures became more complicated. Lorenzo Cadarso, in the aforementioned Study on Royal Documents in the 17th Century. Some Diplomatic News, affirms that a court order dated 20th June 1625 established that all the solicitors and business agents that work in the Court had to be registered within a term of fifteen days from its publication in the Notary Public Office of the Government of the Council of the Indies. However, step by step, the intrusion of people who were not duly qualified have any qualifications and acted on their own freed again the professional intrusion with the connivance of the Administration.