HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN INNS OF COURTS
The American Inns of Court (AIC) is an association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals from all levels and backgrounds who share a passion for professional excellence. Through regular meetings, members are able to build and strengthen professional relationships; discuss fundamental concerns about professionalism and pressing legal issues of the day; share experiences and advice; exhort the utmost passion and dedication for the law; provide mentoring opportunities; and advance the highest levels of integrity, ethics, and civility. Our Inns have gained a national and international reputation as an organization that bridges the gap between formal law school education and legal practice by offering career-long continuing education in the Common Law tradition. (Video)
The AIC is the fastest growing legal organization in the country. Today, there are nearly 400 chartered American Inns of Court in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Tokyo. More than 30,000 state, federal, and administrative law judges, attorneys, legal scholars, and students in their final year of law school are currently active members of an American Inn of Court.
AICs are patterned after the English Inns of Court that began in 1292 when King Edward I directed his Chief Justice to satisfy a growing need for skilled advocates at the Royal Court at Westminster. The English Inns of Court grew in number and importance during the Middle Ages. They emphasized the value of learning the craft of lawyering from those already established in the profession. Their collegial environment fostered common goals and nurtured professional ideals and ethics.
In 1977 Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and other American lawyers and judges spent two weeks in England as part the Anglo-American Exchange. They were particularly impressed with the collegial approach of the English Inns of Court and with the way in which the Inns passed on to new lawyers the decorum, civility, and professional standards necessary for a properly functioning bar. Following his return, Chief Justice Burger authorized a pilot program that could be adapted to the realities of law practice in the United States.
Chief Justice Burger, former Solicitor General Rex Lee, and Senior United States District Judge Albert Sherman Christensen founded the first American Inn of Court in 1980. The Inn was affiliated with the J. Reuben Clark School of Law at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The number of Inns increased slowly at first, but the growth of the movement began to accelerate in 1985 with the creation of the American Inns of Court Foundation.
THE AMERICAN INNS OF COURT FOUNDATION
The American Inns of Court Foundation is a non-profit, tax exempt organization. It was created in May 1985 by and for the individual American Inns of Court. By becoming an active member of a local American Inn of Court, individuals automatically become members of the American Inns of Court Foundation. The objectives of the Foundation include: to charter Inns nationwide; to serve and foster communication among Inns; and to encourage membership in American Inns of Court. Our Inn pays annual dues to the Foundation.
The Foundation carries a national general liability policy and umbrella policy for bodily injury and property damage that covers all chartered Inns throughout the country. In addition, each Inn may be blanketed under the Foundation’s IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, thereby eliminating the need to file an annual tax return if its average annual gross receipts do not exceed $25,000.
The Foundation also provides benefits to individual Inn members. These benefits include: (1) a subscription to The Bencher, a bimonthly newsletter providing information on American Inns of Court events at a regional and national level, as well as local events involving other Inns, and columns and articles dealing with timely issues of legal ethics; (2) a listing in the National Membership Directory published each year with the assistance of the West Group; and (3) a reciprocal visitation agreement with the four English Inns of Court which enables individual Inn members to visit and dine in the English Inns. American Inns of Court members are required to obtain a letter of introduction from the Foundation before visiting one of the English Inns.
Periodically, the Foundation hosts a national conference that is traditionally held in May and is rotated among cities throughout the country. In addition to the annual conference, the Foundation holds annual regional workshops that focus on the real nuts and bolts of running an effective Inn. In October of each year, the Foundation hosts an annual leadership dinner at the United States Supreme Court for the purpose of honoring local, regional, and national leaders and to present the A. Sherman Christensen Award, the Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics, and the Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Service.
MISSION OF THE AMERICAN INNS OF COURT
The Mission of the AIC is to foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills for judges, lawyers, academicians, and students of the law to perfect the quality, availability and efficiency of justice in the United States. This is our professional creed.
Whereas, the Rule of Law is essential to preserving and protecting the rights and liberties of a free people; and
Whereas, throughout history, lawyers and judges have preserved, protected and defended the Rule of Law to ensure justice for all; and
Whereas, preservation and promulgation of the highest standards of excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills are essential to achieving justice under the Rule of Law;
Now therefore, as a member of an American Inn of Court, I hereby adopt this professional creed with a pledge to honor its principles and practices:
● 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 respect 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.