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 barristers. 

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 America.

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 levels.

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 excellence.

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 administrators.

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 learning.

7. To promote collegiality among professionals and to transmit ethical values from one professional generation to another.