Attorneys-at-Law in the Land Courts of the Kaunas District at the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century

  • Darius Vilimas
Keywords: juridical culture, and court of the Kaunas district, early seventeenth century, structure of manuscript land court books of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Third Statute of Lithuania, nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, pre-history of attorneys-at-law


The article discusses attorneys-at-law in the land courts of the Kaunas district at the beginning of the seventeenth century, whose names were found in six surviving manuscript land court books. This is a significantly smaller amount of information than in the court books of Žemaitija (Samogitia) of that time, which are discussed in the author’s earlier article. A total of 235 case examination records are discussed. The disputants litigated either verbally (appearing at the court with the litigants) or in writing (in the litigants’ absence). During this period, there were about 10–12 such permanent attorneys-at-law in Kaunas. Approximately 5–7 individuals worked most intensively as attorneys-at-law, while the names of others appeared in court books episodically, they worked briefly, or were from other regions of the state. Unlike in Samogitia, the residents of the neighbouring territories (Upytė, Ukmergė, Trakai districts, Samogitia) and representatives from more distant places (Grodno or Vilnius) worked as attorneys-at-law at the land court of Kaunas. This can be explained by the fact that Kaunas was an important crossroads of trade routes within the country and abroad, to Prussia and Livonia.

All groups of nobility, from magnates to the petty nobility, had attorneys-at-law. Merchants, the clergy, and townspeople also often used their services, usually of the same individuals who took part in the disputes of ‘pure’ nobility. The interests of subordinates were represented by their lord or his servant, who also had attorneys-at-law. More influential nobles or magnates had ‘permanent’ attorneys-at-law who represented them, just like the Tatars of Lithuania, whose status was close to nobility and they could litigate in courts.

The most active attorneys-at-law would represent several cases in one session. It would happen that the same pairs of attorneys-at-law defended different clients in several cases on the same day. Work intensity of attorneys-at-law suggests that they must have had assistants to help them navigate the multitude of cases, but due to the lack of sources this statement cannot be proved yet.