American Inns of Court
The American Inns of Court are organized to improve the professionalism, skills, and ethics of judges, lawyers, law professors, law students. Inn of Court meet approximately once a month for fellowship and for programs designed to improve legal skills, ethics, and professionalism.
The American Inns of Court is loosely based upon the traditional English model of legal apprenticeship -- without the British wigs and robes -- transformed to fit the circumstances and needs of the American legal system. The intent is to help lawyers become more effective counselors and advocates with a heightened ethical awareness. Young lawyers and students through exposure to the experience of seasoned attorneys and judges in their community.
American Inns of Court are not just social, fraternal organizations, or mere continuing legal education programs, an apprenticeships or adjuncts of a law school's program. While some of each of these features may be involved, the Inns of Court are different in aim, scope, and effect.
American Inns of Court include more than 25,000 legal professionals. Membership includes: Masters (judges, lawyers with at least 10 years experience, and law professors), Barristers (lawyers at least 5 years experience), Associates (lawyers with at least 5 years experience), and Pupils (law students).
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. Over 350 Inns of Court are chartered around the United States.
The membership of each Inn of Court is divided into "pupillage teams," including of a few members from each membership category. Each team conducts one program for the Inn each year. Pupillage team members are supposed to get together informally outside of monthly Inn meetings in groups of two or more, though of course everyone is subject to the tyranny of busy schedules. 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 jurisdiction, 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. He is a 2019 recipient of the “Tradition of Excellence”Award from the State Bar of Georgia General Practice & Trial Section.