He was called to the bar (Lincoln's Inn) in 1876, and became a competent equity lawyer and conveyancer, but finally devoted himself to comparative jurisprudence and especially the history of English law. In 1884 he was appointed reader in English law at Cambridge, and in 1888 became Downing professor of the laws of England. Though he suffered poor health, his intellectual grasp and wide knowledge and research gradually made him famous as a jurist and historian.
The History Faculty Library at Oxford University contains the Maitland Room named after him.
He edited numerous volumes for the Selden Society, including Select Pleas for the Crown, 1200-1225, Select Pleas in Manorial Courts and The Court Baron; and among his principal works were:
He also made important contributions to the Cambridge Modern History, the English Historical Review, the Law Quarterly Review, Harvard Law Review and other publications. Maitland delivered the Ford Lectures in 1897.
His written style was elegant and lively, and as a historian he used original sources; he was no pedant. His death at Gran Canaria deprived English law and letters of an outstanding representative.
Paul Vinogradoff's article on Maitland in the English Historical Review (1907);
A. L. Smith, F. W. Maitland (1908);
H. A. L. Fisher, F. W. Maitland (1910);
G. R. Elton, F.W. Maitland (1985).
C H S Fifoot, Frederic William Maitland: A Life (1971) (only full length biography in print. Written by an academic lawyer in the field, but covering both the personal and professional life of its subject).
A number of Maitland's works have been reproduced on the McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought
A painting of Maitland (1906) by Beatrice Locke is available from the National Portrait Gallery