Mission of the American Inns of Court

The mission of the American Inns of Court is to foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility and legal skills.

Goals of the American Inns of Court Foundation

1. To promote, establish and charter American Inns of Court throughout the United States.

2. To help ensure the vitality and continuity of local Inns.

3. To facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences and ongoing education among members of the American Inns of Court, thereby maintaining an institutional forum where judges, lawyers, academicians and students of law, working together, pursue the highest goals of the legal profession.

4. To shape a culture of excellence in American jurisprudence by promoting a commitment to professionalism, ethics, civility and legal skills in the practice of law, and transmitting these values from one generation of lawyers to the next.

5. To ensure the viability and long-term stability of the American Inns of Court Foundation.

The American Inns of Court: A Brief History

The American Inns of Court 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 and culture 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 of 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 A. 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 grew rapidly with the creation of the American Inns of Court Foundation in 1985. Today there are over 350-chartered American Inns of Court in forty-eight states and the District of Columbia. The American Inns of Court movement actively involves more than 25,000 state, federal, and administrative law judges, attorneys, legal scholars and students.

As Justice O'Connor observed in her most recent book, The Majesty of the Law, the American Inns of Court are "the product of [late Chief Justice Warren Burger's] idea for improving the skills of the working bar." As Justice O'Connor recounts in her forward to The American Inns of Court: Reclaiming a Noble Profession, the American Inns of Court movement, born nearly a quarter century ago, has been a resounding success story:

"In the 1960s, well before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Burger envisioned an organization that would help lawyers improve their Advocacy skills, with an emphasis on the importance of professional integrity and ethics. He visited England in 1977 in connection with the Anglo-American Legal Exchange program, returning with the idea of creating in the United States an organization patterned after the English Inns of Court, which have for hundreds of years provided mentoring to young lawyers. A number of prominent members of the legal community…joined the Chief Justice to hone his ideas into a workable concept. Forty-four members participated in the first American Inn of Court in Utah in 1980. Today, there are more than [350] active American Inns, with a collective membership of [more than 25,000]. The Judicial Conference of the United States, the Conference of Chief Justices, the ABA Commission on Professionalism, and the ABA Judicial Administration Division have strongly endorsed the American Inn program."

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. OurInn 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 as long as its average gross receipts do not exceed $25,000.

The Foundation also provides benefits to individual Inn members. These include 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. The Foundation has 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.

The Foundation hosts a national leadership conference that is traditionally held in May and is rotated among cities throughout the country. 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 for Dedicated Service to the American Inns movement, the Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics, the Warren E. Burger Prize for Legal Writing and the Sandra Day O'Connor Award for Professional Service.