What is an American Inn of Court?

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 and lawyers. 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 and attorneys. Membership is composed of the following categories: Masters of the Bench -- judges and experienced lawyers who participate in the Inn indefinitely; Barristers -- lawyers with five or more years experience who join the Inn for two years; and Associates -- less experienced lawyers who join the Inn for one year.

The membership is divided into "teams", with each team consisting of members from each membership category. Each team conducts one program for the Inn each year. Team members get together informally outside of monthly Inn meetings to allow the less experienced attorneys to become more effective advocates and counselors by learning from the more experienced attorneys and judges.

History of the Louis M. Welsh Inn

The Welsh Inn was founded in San Diego in 1983 by Judge William B. Enright, Judge Howard B. Turrentine, and attorneys William G. Bailey and Robert G. Steiner. This Inn, named the Louis M. Welsh Inn of the American Inns of Court, is the ninth Inn chartered in the nation. The first year of operation for the Welsh Inn was from the fall of 1984 through the spring of 1985. 

Judge Enright served as President for many years and was followed by Judge Rudi M. Brewster, Judge Marilyn L. Huff, Judge J. Richard Haden, Judge Ronald L. Styn, Judge Janis L. Sammartino, and current President, Judge Karen S. Crawford. The Inn has assisted in the creation of three additional Inns in San Diego County and has won national awards for program excellence.

Mission and Organization

The purpose of the Inn is to provide less experienced practitioners with the opportunity for sustained interaction with experienced attorneys and judges. This is accomplished through monthly meetings at which the Barristers and Associates interact with and receive instruction in procedure and trial practice from the senior members of the Inn. A strong emphasis is placed on professionalism, ethics and civility. The goal of the Inn is to create a lasting, permanent mechanism to enable senior members of the bar and bench to pass on to younger members of the bar the higher standards and technical skills necessary to enhance the practice of law by those in the trial community. Regular monthly meetings of the Inn are supplemented by regular meetings of smaller subgroups called teams.

The Inn is composed of Associates, attorneys with one to five years of experience; Barristers, attorneys with five or more years experience; and Masters of the Bench, attorneys and judges with recognized experience and expertise as trial advocates. Associates are invited to join the Inn for one year, Barristers for two years, and Masters of the Bench for life. Every past member of the Inn is placed on a roster of alumni and is invited to continue attending programs after the conclusion of their term, on a first-come, first-served basis. All alumni are invited to attend an annual "homecoming" banquet typically held in January.

The Inn meets once monthly from September through June, from 5:30-7:30 PM, in downtown San Diego. The January meeting is the Joint Inns Dinner which includes the alumni.