Inns of Court
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The Inns of Court, located in London, are four independent professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. To be entitled to call oneself a barrister, a student must be 'called to the Bar' by one of these four Inns. Every barrister who is actively practising must keep current his membership in an Inn. Judges who were formerly barristers must also maintain membership. The Inns of Court have supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members. They provide them with libraries, dining facilities and professional accommodation. Every Inn has also a church or chapel attached to it. Traditionally, the Inns of Court functioned as self-contained precincts in which barristers would train and practise their craft. Today, however, due to the tremendous growth in the legal profession over the past half-century, many barristers' chambers must now be located outside the precincts of these four venerable institutions.
The four Inns are Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple, and Gray's Inn. The term 'Inn' itself derives from the word's more colloquial usage of signifying a hostel, i.e., a place to eat and sleep. In fact, communal meals are still a very important function of the Inns; prospective barristers are required to dine in hall a certain number of times before being considered qualified to practice law (i.e. called to the Bar). The Inns also have the rather unpleasant but no doubt essential function of 'disbarring' (and expelling) errant barristers for professional or personal misconduct.