History of the School of Law

A fine tradition stretching more than three hundred years

The City of Edinburgh has been a major centre for Law since the middle ages, and for more than 300 years the University has trained generations of the world's finest legal minds.

The first Chair in Law, the Regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations, was established in 1707, a Regius chair endowed by conversion of a number of bursaries in Divinity.

Charles Areskine, Regius Chair 1707 - 1734

Portrait of Charles Areskine

The man appointed to the new chair was Charles Areskine, MA (St Andrews) and Regent in Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh.

Areskine had a distinguished legal and political career, entering Parliament in 1722, and serving as Solicitor General (1725-1737) and Lord Advocate (1737-1742), before appointment to the bench as Lord Tinwald in 1742. In 1748 he became Lord Justice Clerk.

In many ways he was a typical figure of the early Enlightenment in Scotland, interested in banking and economic development, a member of the Musical Society, and a founder member of that important intellectual club, the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, the forerunner of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Other Chairs, in Civil Law, Scots Law, Constitutional Law and History, and Forensic Medicine followed in the eighteenth century. Over three centuries, the University has had a continuing history of fine legal scholarship and teaching.

Read a full history of Law at the University of Edinburgh, written by Prof John W. Cairns and Prof Hector L. MacQueen