Willson Inn of Court Membership
The Willson American Inn of Court is limited to 70 active members. The membership is divided into three classifications:
- Masters are lawyers with 15 or more years of experience, a law professor, and appellate and local trial court judges. These members are the voting members of the Inn.
- Barristers include lawyers with from 5 to 15 years of experience.
- Associates are lawyers with fewer than five years of experience.
The Willson Inn is associated with Stetson University College of Law and encourages law students who are in their final year of law school to attend and participate as Pupils of the Inn.
The Inn's members are drawn from Polk County and the other surrounding counties within the Tenth Judicial Circuit. Membership is open to all qualified persons, regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, or handicap. Thus, the Willson American Inn of Court reflects the rich diversity of the bench and bar in the Tenth Judicial Circuit and includes representatives of the plaintiffs' bar, defense counsel (criminal and civil), solo practitioners, government lawyers, corporate counsel, law professors, persons working in large and small firms, and local trial and appellate judges. Efforts are made to ensure that no law firm or type of practice is disproportionately represented.
All members serve at the pleasure of the Executive Committee. Masters are invited to participate without actual restriction on the years of service. Barristers generally serve four-year terms; while Associate members serve two-year terms. Each summer, invitations are extended to current members based upon participation and attendance during the preceding year. When vacancies are created, invitations to new members are extended based upon the vote of the Executive Committee after considering the then existing needs of the membership. A waiting list for admission to the Inn is maintained by the Inn Administrator. Members are not permitted to change their membership classification during their term but may be placed in a different classification if they meet the qualifications at the beginning of the next Inn year.
In addition to the active members, the Inn extends Honorary Membership status to Masters who have served the Inn, and customarily have served on the Executive Committee, and who wish to rotate out for any given Inn year. Honorary members are encouraged to participate in the Inn's educational and social programs as their schedule permits. The Inn also recognizes Master Emeritus members. This category is reserved for members who have been admitted to the Bar a minimum of 25 years, have been an active member in good standing with the Inn for 5 years or more, and who have a record of distinguished service to the bench and/or bar, exemplifying the objectives of the American Inns of Court.
Selection of Willson Inn Members
In the spring of each year, the Membership Chair and Inn Administrator solicit nominations for new Masters, Barristers, and Associates from the Inn's active members, from judges, and from the local bar membership. A list is then prepared identifying persons who have a demonstrated interest in developing their own professional skills and in improving the quality of justice in the Tenth Judicial Circuit through Inn membership. The names of these individuals, their area(s) of practice, and year of admission to the bar are submitted to the Inn's Executive Committee. The Executive Committee engages in discussion and then votes to fill the vacancies of the Inn where there are more applicants than positions available. On behalf of the Executive Committee, the Inn Administrator extends the invitations to join or to continue Inn membership.