In February 1903 a group of local solicitors met at the Bugle Hotel in Newport and formed the Society, with a view to encouraging and maintaining high standards of professionalism not only between solicitors on the Island, but also towards their clients.
Early on in its history the Society became involved in matters involving allegations of misconduct by members of the legal profession on the Island, though were frequently able to do no more than complain to the National Law Society as the persons complained of were not solicitors, even though on occasions they claimed to be or carried out duties reserved to solicitors.
Representations were made to Parliament objecting to proposed substantial changes in the law and maintaining that on the Island the legal profession’s business was carried out “with expedition and at very moderate costs…” and frequently telegrams would be sent expressing local opposition to measures proposed – phrases such as “scandalous”, “dishonourable” and “disgraceful” were used (though it is unclear if they had any effect).
The war Years
During both World Wars the Society frequently had to step in to assist sole practitioners called up and who were worried for their clients who were often elderly and would be left bereft because of the absence of their long-trusted family solicitor.
Between the wars there was the initial problem of coping with inflation and frozen wages which in turn led to the depression of the early thirties. During this time a local law library was established, enabling practitioners to have access to expensive and necessary legal tomes without having to purchase their own copies.
Since WW2 the Society has played a role in the development of local justice on the Island. The establishment of Quarter Sessions on the Island (the forerunner of the Crown Court) in the early 1950s, the setting up of Divorce Courts locally in the mid 1960s, the amalgamation of the three Magistrates’ Courts into one in the late 1960s and the construction of the new combined courts’ buildings in Quay Street in the 1990s are all important developments which have been encouraged and supported by the Society. A conveyancing protocol set up on the Island by the Society in the mid 1970’s proved so successful in achieving efficient conveyancing of house sales that it was adopted on a national basis.
During the 1990s it is believed that all solicitors in private practice on the Island were amongst its members and the Society still enjoys support from a substantial majority of such lawyers.
Today the Isle of Wight Law Society continues to encourage and uphold the high standards of professionalism amongst its members.