The American Inns of Court
The Origins of the American Inns of Court
The Inns of Court began in 1292 when King Edward I
directed his chief justice to implement a plan to enhance the skill
of advocates before the Royal Court of Westminster. The plan
created by the chief justice provided that new lawyers would be
taught to become barristers by judges and master lawyers in a
collegial environment. Through the conduct of "moots," the master
lawyers and judges taught those aspiring to become barristers the
standards of competency and the ethics required of those who were
to become advocates.
Today, the English Inns are unique institutions because they
function as both professional associations and collegiate
educational institutions. There are four English Inns: Gray's Inn,
Lincoln's Inn (the oldest, which dates back to at least 1422),
Inner Temple, and Middle Temple. Each Inn campus is still utilized
by students, barristers and "benchers" (masters of the bench) who
dine in the halls, study in the library, and work in some of the
chambers that function as offices. These Inns remain the proving
ground for those who aspire to become English
The American Inns of Court Experience
The following includes several excerpts from How to Create an
American Inn of Court, which gives a basic overview of the purpose
and operation of an Inn of Court. It has been modified to specify
the structure of the Tampa Bay Inn of Court. The Tampa Bay Inn of
Court has some latitude in its structure and will take direction
from its Masters.
The mission of the American Inns of Court is to increase the
excellence, professionalism, civility, and ethical awareness of
judges, lawyers, law professors, and students. Beginning with one
American Inn in 1980, there were over 300 chartered American Inns
with over 20,000 members as of September 1997.
In 1977, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger and
other leaders of the American legal profession visited the Inns in
London and were impressed with the competency, civility, and
professionalism fostered by them. The American Inns of Court
concept originated with Chief Justice Burger's perception that many
of the positive values present in the eight hundred year tradition
of the famed English Inns of court could be gained from a similar
system adapted to fit the legal practices and history of the United
States. After the 1977 visit, Chief Justice Burger, Ninth Circuit
Judge J. Clifford Wallace and the late Rex Lee, then dean of
Brigham Young University's School of Law, and later Solicitor
General of the United States, discussed bringing the Inn concept to
The pilot program was entrusted to the late Judge A. Sherman
Christensen, then Senior United States District Judge in Utah.
Judge Christensen's efforts resulted in the founding of the first
Inn of Court in the Provo-Salt Lake City area in 1980. By 1985, the
American Inns of Court Foundation was created and acceleration of
the Inn movement in America began.
Who Joins an American Inn of Court?
An American Inn of Court member is a legal professional who is
willing to make a personal commitment to excellence. Inn members
strive to improve their advocacy skills, professionalism, civility,
and ethics. It is a goal of the American Inns of Court to address
the needs of its members in each of these areas.
The Concept of an American Inn of Court
An American Inn of Court is an intimate amalgam of judges,
experienced lawyers, less experienced lawyers, law students, and
law professors in an organized and continuing structure designed to
directly enhance the professional and ethical quality of legal
advocacy in America. While recognizing some natural differences,
the American Inns of Court are patterned after, and enjoy kinship
with, the English Inns of Court. The two organizations share
professional ideals, standards, and a pride in advocacy they
engender as a part of our common legal heritage.
The essence of an American Inn of court is its relatively small
size and the personal contact among its members. At an American Inn
of court meeting, members engage in mock trials, demonstrate
appellate arguments, receive critical evaluation, share insights
into the judicial process, and discuss ideas and experiences.
Between meetings, smaller groups (Pupilage Teams) of members meet
in law offices, courtrooms, and judges' chambers.
Objectives of the American Inns of Court
The Charter granted to our Inn sets forth the objectives of the
American Inns of Court as follows:
1. To be a membership of judges, lawyers, legal educators, and
others as may be consistent with this Charter, to promote
excellence in legal advocacy at the trial and appellate court
2. To foster greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the
adversary system of dispute resolution in American law, with
particular emphasis on ethics and professional standards of
3. To provide significant educational experiences that will
improve and enhance the skills of lawyers as counselors and
advocates and of judges as adjudicators and judicial
4. To promote interaction among members of all categories in
order to minimize misapprehensions, misconceptions, and failures of
communication that obstruct the effective practice of law.
5. To faciliate the development of law students, recent law
school graduates, and less experienced lawyers as skilled
participants in the American court system.
6. To build upon the genius and strengths of the common law and
the English Inns of court and to renew and inspire joy and zest in
legal advocacy as a service worthy of constant effort and
7. To promote collegiality among professionals and to transmit
ethical values from one professional generation to another.