Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Gray's Inn Definition:

One of four Inns of the Court, self-regulating associations of barristers in England and wales.

Related Terms: Middle Temple, Inns of Court, Lincoln's Inn, Chancery Lane, Inns of Chancery, Inner Temple

Formally, the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, and a self-regulating, professional association of barristers in England and Wales.

Gray’s Inn derives its name from the original land owner, the de Gray family.

Gray's Inn griffinWith the legal and law school education of students for the Bar now vested in universities, the role and relative importance of Gray's Inn in the profession and practise of law in the United Kingdom has changed.

Still, circa 2012, the Gray's Inn website describes the society as follows:

"The four Inns of Court have the exclusive right to call men and women to the Bar - i.e. to admit those who have fulfilled the necessary qualifications to the degree of Barrister-at-Law, which entitles them, after a period of pupillage (vocational training) either to practise as independent advocates in the Courts of England and Wales or to take employment in government or local government service, industry, commerce or finance. Thus, to qualify as a barrister, everyone must join an Inn and keep a qualifying session on at least twelve occasions.

"The government of each (Inn of Court) is ultimately controlled by the Masters of the Bench, elected mainly from among its members who are also senior members of the judiciary or Queen's Counsel. In the case of Gray's Inn there are about 200 Benchers, whose collective formal meetings are known as Pension.The head of the Inn and Chairman of Pension is called the Treasurer.The Masters of the Bench are responsible for admission to the Inn, student discipline and Call to the Bar."

In about 1307, the land on which Gray's Inn was built belonged to Reginald le Grey, chief justice of Chester, and the structure, the Manor of Portpoole.

The earliest record of the organization is 1355.1

In 1513, there is a land record showing that the Lord Grey's manor was leased to six lawyers. In 1563, the Hall of Gray's Inn was finished.

Queen Elizabeth I was a patron of Gray’s Inn, attending events there regularly, immortalized by the traditional toast of Gray’s Inn:

“To the pious, glorious and immortal memory of good Queen Bess!”

The coat of arms is a gold griffin on a black background (a mythical beast said to have been “eight time the size of a lion”).

Despite a reputation of being the poor sibling and bon vivant of the four Inns of Court, Gray’s Inn alumni is impressive: Edmund Dudley, William Camden (1551-1623), Winston Churchill, Thomas Cromwell, Nicholas Bacon and his son Francis Bacon, and Samuel Romilly.

On one occasion, in 1780, Romilly had a secure a gun and guard to gate of the Gray's Inn against attack during the Gordon Riots.

Gray’s Inn Hall is one of the grandest structures of all four Inns of Court, though gutted by bombs in World War II.


  • Daniell, Timothy, A Literary Excursion to the Inns of Court in London (London: Wildy & Sons, 1971)
  • Duke, H. E., Gray's Inn, published in The Inns of Court and of Chancery (London: McMillan and Co., 1912), page 189
  • Gray's Inn (transcript of proceedings), 10 ABAJ 601 (1924)
  • Headlam, Cecil, The Inns of Court (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1909)
  • www.graysinn.info

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