Who We Are, What We Do
Welcome: The Robert Van Pelt Inn of Court, a charter member of the American Inns of Court, is located in Lincoln, Nebraska. Consistent with the Diversity Policy of the American Inns of Court, the Robert Van Pelt Inn membership consists of judges, lawyers, academicians and students of the law. The Inn welcomes and appreciates the depth and program enrichment created through the contributions of its diverse membership.
Introduction: The American Inns of Court, including the Robert Van Pelt Inn, focuses on promoting justice through mentorship and education. The Inns of Court provide a forum where members, working together, may pursue the highest goals of the legal profession; thereby enabling them to better perfect justice, by making it equal, available and efficient for everyone. The American Inns of Court is a movement devoted to legal excellence, civility, professionalism, and ethics. Each American Inn of Court is an intimate amalgam of no more than 80 judges, lawyers, law students, and law professors in an organized and continuing structure designed to improve the standards 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. Over 300 local Inns of Court have become affiliated with the national organization of the American Inns of Court Foundation.
Robert Van Pelt Inn of Court: The Robert Van Pelt American Inn of Court began in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1987. Initially, it had 50 members, including United States Senior District Judge Robert Van Pelt, who served until his death in 1988. The Inn joined the national organization in 1990. In 1992 and 1993, it gradually increased its membership to provide opportunities for a larger constituency.
The Inn members are Masters of the Bench (judges), Masters of the Bar (experienced trial lawyers), Barristers (less experienced trial lawyers), Associates (one or two years out of law school), and Students (third year law students).
Individual Pupillage Teams: The members of the Robert Van Pelt Inn are divided into seven Individual Pupillage Teams: the Brandeis, Cardozo, Learned Hand, Holmes, Marshall, Pound and Story teams. Each team consists of one Master of the Bench, and a minimum of two Masters of the Bar; two Barristers; one associate; and two law students. Most of the educational efforts of the Robert Van Pelt Inn are done by and within these individual pupillage teams.
Programs: The Inn year begins with a social gathering and new member orientation in Setember. Seven program meetings are held monthly thereafter from October through April. The Inn year ends with a social evening an awards ceremony held in May.
Based on a rotational assignment determined by the executive committee, a different pupillage team is responsible for the content of each monthly program. The usual time allotted for a program is from 5:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., beginning with a light meal or snack and drink. Each pupillage team determines the subject and content of the program for its assigned meeting. Creativity, both in substance and style, is encouraged. Because ethics is a subject that most interests members, it is requested that every program address an ethical issue.
Two weeks prior to presentation of a program, someone designated within the individual pupillage team must prepare a program outline for submission to obtain Nebraska CLE program credits. After the program, each pupillage team must prepare a form describing the program and forward that form to the Inn's program chair. The program information is then sent to the national organization, American Inns of Court Foundation, for possible publication in the programming manual. This manual is circulated among all American Inns of Courts for the exchange of program ideas.
Individual Pupillage Team Meetings: The Robert Van Pelt Inn strongly encourages each pupillage team to meet at least once a month outside the regular program meetings of the Van Pelt Inn. These meetings are particularly helpful in creating a close relationship and enhancing mentoring opportunities among the team members.
Mentoring Program: The American Inns of Court are dedicated to improving the skills, professionalism, and legal ethics of the bench and bar. The Robert Van Pelt Inn believes that these educational objectives are enhanced when members of a pupillage team share learning experiences by participating in team meetings, in one-on-one settings, and in the regular monthly program meetings of the Robert Van Pelt Inn.
Attending a trial, a portion of a trial, a hearing, a deposition, an arbitration -- whatever -- and discussing professional aspects of the experience are some examples of such mentoring experiences. Others might involve reviewing a brief or memorandum or reading and discussing a law review or other article. These are just a few suggestions; originality is encouraged. The important goal is that learning shall take place.
Accordingly, it is suggested that each of the Masters be teamed with Barristers, Associates or Students and that they participate, if this is found feasible and useful to the participants, in an educational experience with some frequency.
This mentoring program is an ambitious one, and it is intended to be. The principal purpose of being an American Inn of Court is to help the new and soon-to-be members of the profession grow in civility, ethics, and professionalism. Nothing short of ambitious programs will have a noticeable effect.
Attendance: Education in the Inns of Court setting is wholly dependent upon the attendance of the members -- at the meetings of the Van Pelt Inn, at the meetings of the Individual Pupillage Teams, and at yhe one-on-one mentoring sessions. Sign-in sheets are available at each monthly Inn program meeting to monitor a member's involvement and the member's entitlement to CLE credit for program attendance.
Terms of Members: Masters of the Bench are invited for a minimum of three years and have the option of extending their membership indefinitely with the approval of the Executive Committee. Masters of the Bar, Barristers, and Associates are invited for a minimum of three years. Students are limited to one-year terms.
Dues of Members: Annual dues for Masters are $200; for Barristers, $150; for Associates, $75, and for Students, $25.
Alumni Members: Alumni members, formerly known as Innkeepers, were added in 1992. They are former active members who now provide support of all kinds to the Robert Van Pelt Inn--by financing, mentoring and advising members, discussing legal topics, and attending meetings. A member who has completed his or her term becomes an Alumni member by making a commitment of $100 for a year. An Alumni member receives invitations to participate in all meetings and activities of the Robert Van Pelt Inn and may renew the Alumni member status from year to year.
Emeritus Members: Emeritus Membership may be conferred upon active Masters of the Bench or Bar on the basis of long and distinguished service to the American Inn of Court.
Honorary Members: Honorary Membership may be conferred upon individuals whether they are lawyers or not, on the basis of distinguished service to the bench or bar, furtherance of American Inn of Court objectives, or other noteworthy achievements.