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The term chancellery (from Middle High German  kanzelie , originally the enclosed area of ​​an authority , especially a court of law ; from Latin cancelli "barriers") today often refers to the office of a lawyer ( law firm ), patent attorney or notary ( notary's office ). As is customary in the industry, the term law firm is also used by tax consultants . In the meantime, this name is occasionally used by insurance brokers and management consultants . In the case of a court, the department responsible for issuing documents and carrying out correspondence is referred to as the court registry or court clerkship.

A chancellery is also used to describe an authority at the highest administrative level that does not have its own administrative structure and, as a rule, does not assume any departmental responsibility , but rather exercises coordination and coordination functions (e.g. Reich Chancellery , Bavarian State Chancellery , Saxon State Chancellery ).

In official-diplomatic parlance, the chancellery (or embassy chancellery ) is the building that houses the administration of the embassy , as opposed to the residence in which the ambassador has his office and residence; both can be in the same place, but also miles apart.

Historical meaning

Historically, the chancellery is the authority of the regent or a city that conducts and archives correspondence and is responsible for notarizations . The head of such a law firm was the Chancellor (from Latin cancellarius ).

From the 4th century there was an apostolic chancellery for the first time as an institution of the Roman curia . Later the term was adopted for the authorities of the Lombard and Frankish kings. The head was a chancellor or arch-chancellor .

The Byzantine Empire continued the administrative tradition of the late Roman Empire and until its fall in 1453 - in different forms over the centuries - had a chancellery in the sense of an administrative authority.

In the Middle Ages law firms gained great importance (see also Development of the Reich Chancellery ). However, the law firm developed differently from country to country. In the France of the Ancien Régime , the Chancellor of France had a prominent position.

The general language used in the chancellery offered Martin Luther the prerequisite for creating a uniform written German language. The term Reich Chancellery has already been used for an authority in the Holy Roman Empire , the Reich Chancellery in the Vienna Hofburg. After German unification in 1871, the designated Reich Chancellery in Berlin, the Office of the Chancellor.

There were also chancelleries of the Reich circles . There were also chancelleries of the individual imperial estates and their staff unions , the court chancelleries : There was an Austrian court chancellery since 1620 at the latest , it was the central authority for the Austrian hereditary lands . There was also a Bohemian court chancellery from 1527 .

Due to the semi-official character of the German legal profession (organ of the administration of justice) , various terms from the administrative language are still applied to the legal profession. Examples are law firm and fees .

Swiss and Austria

In Switzerland , the term is still used today to denote government staff units, cf. Municipal chancellery , state chancellery (of the cantons) and federal chancellery , but also for positions and offices in private and public corporations that are in close contact with offices, authorities and government agencies. It is also used for the individual offices of these positions. A law firm is usually headed by a clerk. The term is also used in the Swiss Army for adjutants within command posts (especially in the higher staffs of the army). In the army there is a special training to become a secretary (employee of the office with the rank of soldier or non-commissioned officer). The higher authorities have the staff secretary (management staff in the officer rank) and the law firm boss (head of the firm).

In Austria , too , the term for administrative institutions is e.g. B. of the armed forces (security chancellery, clerk ), but above all also for law offices and notaries. It is also used for individual office spaces in government departments.


In addition to the Danish law firm, there was a German law firm for the administration of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein .

Great Britain

The German law firm in London administered the Kingdom of Hanover .

See also

Wiktionary: Law firm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Cf. Duden online: Chancellery
  2. ^ Gerhard Wahrig : German Dictionary ISBN 3-577-11017-1
  3. § 26 Patent Attorney Regulations
  4. Miljobs: Secretary. Retrieved June 15, 2020 .
  5. L'Armée Suisse / The Swiss Army, 1894, [Plate 31]: Staff Secretary [Staff Secretary] / Secrétaire d'Etat-Major. by Estoppey, David .: (1894) | Franz Kühne second-hand bookshop and art trade. Retrieved June 17, 2020 .