Colorado joined the movement to incorporate the Inns of Court for the legal community, along with the historical traditions of professionalism and mentorship that the English Inns of Court encompass. The first charter for the Denver area granted by the American Inns of Court went to our William E. Doyle Inn. The Doyle Inn was the 19th Inn established in the United States.

Led by U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane, Jr., the first organizational meeting of the Doyle Inn was held on Aug. 28, 1986, at the Denver Cactus Club. The Inn members, called Master Benchers and Barristers, conducted elections and discussed the ensuing year’s program. The officers elected were: Judge John P. Moore, President; Peter P. Watson, Counselor; Judge John Kane, Secretary; Justice Luis Rovira, Treasurer; Professor Steve Rench, Chronicler; David Tenner, Assistant Chronicler; and Kenneth Fimberg, Reporter. Sheldon Friedman was designated Meetings Coordinator and Dan Reilly Chairman of Membership.

The first full meeting of the Doyle Inn was held at the Cactus Club on Oct. 29, 1986. Judge Lewis T. Babcock’s group led a discussion of some of the aches, pains, and tribulations of being a trial lawyer, and the various factors that inspire and motivate attorneys. The second meeting was held on Nov. 19, 1986. Judge Alfred Harrell recalls that his group was responsible for the topic, and elected to discuss the Bar’s obligation to provide pro bono assistance to those unable to obtain paid services.

When Judge Kane started the first Inn of Court in Colorado, he envisioned the creation of other Inns in Colorado. He also spoke to the need for inclusiveness in the Inn movement. Judge Kane predicted the creation of specialty Inns—bankruptcy, white collar crime and family law—throughout the nation; his prediction has come to fruition.

When Judge Alfred Arraj died in 1992, Judge Kane suggested the creation of Colorado’s second Inn of Court and urged that it be named in tribute to the distinguished jurist’s legal career. Because Judge Harrell was then President of the Doyle Inn, Judge Kane considered him to be the best person to lead the second Inn’s creation. “Initially, I was overwhelmed by the challenge; however, with Judge Kane’s encouragement, mentoring, and counsel, and the support of the Denver legal community, the task was accomplished,” Judge Harrell said.

In addition to the Doyle and Arraj Inns, the other of the five Denver-based Inns include: the Thompson G. Marsh Inn, the Robert C. Rhone-Ava M. Brackett Inn, and the Minori Yasui Inn. Rounding out all Colorado Inns of Court, the Byron R. White Inn of Court operates from the Fort Collins/Windsor area, and the Ben S. Wendelken Inn of Court operates in the Colorado Springs area. More recently, the Colorado Intellectual Property American Inn of Court was formed in Denver and operates as a specialty Inn.

Although each Inn of Court has its own identity, the Inns share a common mission to foster professionalism, ethics, and the skills of the Bench and the Bar. Like the English Inns of Court, the American Inns of Court are comprised of lawyers from varying backgrounds, judges, professors, and law students. Within each Inn are smaller subgroups, called “pupilage groups.” Each pupilage group includes one judge, several experienced lawyers, several lawyers with mid-level experience, junior lawyers, and several law students. The pupilage group provides a more intimate group for mentorship and professional camaraderie. Additionally, each pupilage group is typically responsible for organizing and conducting a presentation for one of the Inn’s meetings.

Monthly presentations for all of the Inns can range from speakers of interest (lawyers or non-lawyers) to panels and debates on heated topics of interest to lawyers to thought-provoking skits and plays regarding the legal profession and legal ethics. The mood of these presentations, like the subject matters themselves, can vary from somber to humorous. The Inns encourage interaction by Inn members and their guests in the form of discussions and critique.

Each Inn of Court in the Denver area meets on a set night once per month, save for summer months. The night typically begins with a social cocktail hour followed by a sit-down dinner and Inn announcements and administrative matters. After dinner, the responsible pupilage group presents its program for about an hour. Several Inns promote meetings of the pupilage groups outside the monthly meetings to foster additional mentoring and networking opportunities.

Occasionally, the Denver Inns of Court will have a late-summer social.  At these events, which can be formal or informal, Inns from the metro area gather for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and socializing.