Many of the great Florentine humanists of the fifteenth century were notaries or had studied law. This cultural background helped to give the humanist movement a special focus on the themes of politics and government. In Florentine society, notaries and jurists were of great importance, because their skills were very often employed in public office. In particular, the chancery – the office responsible for drafting official letters and therefore foreign relations – was traditionally overseen by a notary. In Florence, almost all chancellors were important humanists, including Coluccio Salutati, Poggio Bracciolini, and Bartolomeo Scala. Jurists, on the other hand, often had a voice on joint government committees for addressing the most serious political issues of the day, or gave legal advice in the courts and wrote commentaries on the city’s statutes.

Meanwhile, however, a new learning pathway was slowly defined in the fifteenth century. It placed greater emphasis on the humanities, while technical knowledge of law became less important. At the same time, the politics and institutions of the city-state also developed new forms of organisation, in which the functions of law professionals were less indispensable than before. Reforms of the fifteenth-century judicial system also diminished the importance of legal technicians, not least because the use of the vernacular was favoured over Latin, which was, and would remain, the language of law. Law endured as an important subject, but both the culture and politics of Renaissance Florence became freer and less restrained by legal traditions.