Skrene, William (b. a.1357, d. 1419), lawyer, was probably born in Dundalk, Co. Louth, in or before 1357. He was the son of Thomas Skrene of Dundalk, who occurs as a witness to various surviving deeds relating to property there and was probably a burgess of the town. William is not known to have had any brothers but he had a sister, Christine, and may have had a second sister, Isabel. William travelled to England in or before 1378 to study the common law in London as an ‘apprentice of the law’. By this date it was essential for anyone wishing to enter the higher reaches of the legal profession in Ireland or in England to go to London to hear ‘readings’ (lectures), participate in learning exercises at the inns of court, and attend and listen to legal argument in the main Westminster courts. Initially, William probably intended to return to practise in Ireland. What changed his mind is uncertain, but he had clearly decided against doing so by August 1394, when he received a licence to stay in England for life, despite his Irish birth. This was shortly before his only known return trip, accompanying Richard II (qv) on his first visit to Ireland in 1394–5. He had arrived by March 1395 and in June of that year was appointed chief baron of the Dublin exchequer, but he had returned to England by the following December.
In 1396 William joined the elite of the English legal profession, the very small group of serjeants-at-law, who possessed a monopoly of speaking on behalf of clients in the Westminster bench, the main court for civil litigation. After his ‘call’ he seems to have followed a career typical of the serjeants of the period, appearing on a regular basis in the common bench and being appointed as an assize justice in 1400 and 1401, and then on a regular basis from 1406 onwards on the south-western circuit. From 1401 onwards he was regularly retained as counsel by the duchy of Lancaster, but he did not become a king's serjeant till May 1408. It was probably serious illness that led to his ceasing to be appointed an assize justice after the summer assizes of 1414 and giving up his position as king's serjeant later that year. William was probably resident during law terms in London and in 1408 he acquired a house and garden and six shops in the parish of St Mary le Strand just outside the city but close to the inns of court. Out of term he may have lived in Essex, where he acquired extensive properties, or in Kent, where he also held property. William's wife was Agnes, the sister of William Rickhill, a justice of the Westminster bench. They had at least three sons (two, both named William, of whom one had died by November 1409 and the other lived till July 1431, and Thomas) and a daughter, Margaret. William died not long after 12 October 1419.