Referendary is the English form or rendering of a number of administrative positions, of various rank, in chanceries and other official organisations.
The office of referendarius (plural: referendarii, from the Latin refero, "I inform") existed at the Byzantine Court. Such officials reported to the Emperor on the memorials of petitioners, and conveyed to the judges the Emperor's orders in connection with such memorials.
Later the office proliferated and thus became devalued, as reflected in compound titles differentiating some such offices, e.g., in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In later iterations of the Polish state, the title occurred again, e.g., as "referendary of state."
In the Papal Curia Romana (court), the office of referendarii Apostolic ('apostolic referendaries') originated in the Middle Ages; their duty was to receive all petitions directed to the Holy See, to report on them to the pope and to tender him advice. The treatment and decision varied according to the nature of the question: if a favour was concerned, it might be either granted or refused; if some dispute, the pope decided whether it should be referred to a judge. The referendarii were entrusted with all arrangements for these papal decisions, which they had to prepare for the pope's signature (signatura).
From these referendarii developed the court of the Signatura (Collegium referendariorum Signaturæ votantium), concerning which there are various papal constitutions. Pope Innocent VIII (1484–92) introduced a distinction between the referendarii on questions of favours and of justice, whence developed the "Signatura gratiæ" and the "Signatura justitiæ", each competent to give final decision within its sphere. Utriusque Signaturae Apostolicae Referendarius (attested for Joseph Simeon Assemani), or shorter referendarius utriusque signaturae (attested for Pietro Sforza Pallavicino), 'Referendary of both signatures', was a specific title in the Roman Curia, apparently combining both competences.
In the court of the "Signatura justitiæ" developed a distinction between the prelates entitled to vote (prœlati votantes) and those whose duties were confined to reporting on individual cases (prœlati referendarii). The whole body gradually lost all practical importance, especially after the loss of the Papal States, and was entirely abolished at the reorganization of the Curia by Pius X.
Law graduates are employed and paid by a court, where he or she works as a law clerk. The training comprises several stages that give the referendar experience working under supervision in various fields of law. During the first two stages, the referendar works as a law clerk for a civil court judge and for the local office of the public prosecutor.
All law graduates must work as referendars for two years before they may receive admission to practice law. The referendarship is intended to provide practical knowledge that cannot be taught at university.
For trainee teachers this period lasts between 18 and 24 months depending on the state. During this time, referendare are employed by and paid for by the state as applicants to the Middle or Upper service as Beamte, depending on which type of school they are training to teach at. The referendary consists of academic classes as well as teaching classes. At the end of the referendary, trainee teachers take their Second State Examination to qualify for state employment as teachers.