American Inns of Court (AIC)
American Inns of Court (AIC) are designed to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the bench and bar. An American Inn of Court is an amalgam of judges, lawyers, and in some cases, law professors and law students. Each Inn meets approximately once a month both to break bread and to hold programs and discussions on matters of ethics, skills and professionalism.
Looking for a new way to help lawyers and judges rise to higher levels of excellence, professionalism, and ethical awareness, the American Inns of Court adopted the traditional English model of legal apprenticeship and modified it to fit the particular needs of the American legal system. American Inns of Court help lawyers to become more effective advocates and counselors with a keener ethical awareness. Members learn side-by-side with the most experienced judges and attorneys in their community.
An American Inn of Court is not a fraternal order, a social club, a course in continuing legal education, a lecture series, an apprenticeship system, or an adjunct of a law school's program. While an AIC partakes of some of each of these concepts, it is quite different in aim, scope, and effect.
American Inns of Court actively involve more than 20,000 state, federal and administrative law judges, attorneys, legal scholars and third-year law students. Membership is composed of the following categories: Masters of the Bench -- judges, experienced lawyers, and law professors; Barristers -- lawyers with some experience who do not meet the minimum requirements for Masters; Associates -- lawyers who do not meet the minimum requirement for Barristers; and Pupils -- third-year law students. The suggested maximum number of active members in an Inn is 80.
Most Inns concentrate on issues surrounding civil and criminal litigation practice, and include attorneys from a number of specialties. However, there are several Inns that specialize in criminal practice, federal litigation, tax law, administrative law, white-collar crime, bankruptcy, intellectual property, family law, or employment and labor law.
The membership is divided into "pupillage teams," with each team consisting of a few members from each membership category. Each pupillage team conducts one program for the Inn each year. Pupillage team members get together informally outside of monthly Inn meetings in groups of two or more. This allows the less-experienced attorneys to become more effective advocates and counselors by learning from the more-experienced attorneys and judges. In addition, each less-experienced member is assigned to a more-experienced attorney or judge who acts as a mentor and encourages conversations about the practice of law.
Members of the American Inns of Court subscribe to the following "Professional Creed":
- I will treat the practice of law as a learned profession and will uphold the standards of the profession with dignity, civility and courtesy.
- I will value my integrity above all. My word is my bond.
- I will develop my practice with dignity and will be mindful in my communications with the public that what is constitutionally permissible may not be professionally appropriate.
- I will serve as an officer of the court, encouraging respect for the law in all that I do and avoiding abuse or misuse of the law, its procedures, its participants and its processes.
- I will represent the interests of my client with vigor and will seek the most expeditious and least costly solutions to problems, resolving disputes through negotiation whenever possible.
- I will work continuously to attain the highest level of knowledge and skill in the areas of the law in which I practice.
- I will contribute time and resources to public service, charitable activities and pro bono work.
- I will work to make the legal system more accessible, responsive and effective.
- I will honor the requirements, the spirit and the intent of the applicable rules or codes of professional conduct for my jurisdiciton, and will encourage others to do the same.
Ken Shigley is a Master of the Lamar Inn of Court, which is affiliated with Emory University Law School.