Masters of the Bench

The affairs of The Inner Temple are conducted by or under the authority of the Masters of the Bench with the assistance of other members of the Society as provided in the Bench Table Order 2.

Masters of the Bench are elected by the Bench Table and comprise of:

(1) Royal Benchers;
(2) Honorary Benchers;
(3) Academic Benchers;
(4) Overseas Benchers;
(5) Governing Benchers;
(6) Senior Benchers;
(7) Supernumerary Benchers.

Governing Benchers comprise those Masters of the Bench who are Barrister Governing Benchers, Judicial Governing Benchers or Other Governing Benchers. A Master of the Bench shall remain a Master for life, or until they resign or are deprived of their rights as a Master of the Bench or as a member of the Society.

The precedence of Masters of the Bench is:

(1) The Treasurer;
(2) Royal Benchers;
(3) the Reader;
(4) the Reader-Elect;
(5) former Treasurers in the order of their year of office;
(6) other Masters of the Bench in the order of their election to the Bench.

The etymology of the word 'Master' comes from the Medieval Latin 'magister', or teacher, and is used interchangeably for both men and women just as with the word 'actor'. From the late 12th century, it was used of one "eminently or perfectly skilled in something" or "one who is chief teacher of another (in religion, philosophy, etc.), religious instructor, spiritual guide." The sense of it applying to a "master workman or craftsman, workman who is qualified to teach apprentices and carry on a trade on his own account" is from about 1300. The meaning of "one charged with the care, direction, oversight, and control of some office, business, etc." is from the mid-13th century, as is the academic sense of "one who has received a specific degree". Originally it was used of "one who has received a degree conveying authority to teach in the universities" (the Inns of Court being at that time collectively a 'Third University') while 'master's degree', originally a degree giving one authority to teach in a university, is from the late 14th century.

The term 'Master' simplifies the protocol at the Inns of Court by avoiding titles such as knighthoods and peerages and constitutes a commonly-held and more inclusive style of salutation/rank within the Inns. Use of 'Master' at The Inner Temple is not gender specific and might be taken as indicating the mastery of the skill of advocacy. The clear academic connotation of the term (Master of Arts, Master of Laws etc) is fully in line with the Inn as a place of learning, in which education and training is front and centre of all activity, and with its statutory responsibility for the Call of students to the Bar of England and Wales.