No, the American Inns of Court is not an English style pub franchise at which members of the bench and bar meet to confer over drinks and darts. It is however, a valuable and growing social organization of real importance to American law students, lawyers, and judges.
The American Inns of Court Foundation was formally organized in 1985. It is based loosely on the concepts of the seven Inns of Court in England to which all barristers (litigators) must belong in order to practice and appear in court.
The American Inns were established to foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills for judges, lawyers, academicians, and students of law in order to perfect the quality, availability, and efficiency of justice in the United States.
The idea for the Inns began in the late 1970s and developed out of a growing frustration over the lack of collegiality, skill and professionalism demonstrated by attorneys in working with both the bench and bar. Justice Warren E. Burger, a native Minnesotan, was particularly disturbed by what he perceived as the disintegrating skill and conduct of lawyers and thus became instrumental in the development of the American Inns of Court movement.
For over twenty years, the American Inns of Court have provided judges, lawyers, and law students with an opportunity to actively participate in developing a deeper sense of professionalism, achieving higher levels of excellence and furthering the practice of law with dignity and integrity.1 There are over 23,000 Inn members nationwide.
The goals of the Inns of Court are achieved through regular monthly meetings of each Inn to encourage networking and mentoring between the members and the enlightenment of members through educational programs.2
The Minnesota Inn members have included and continue to include Justices from the Minnesota Supreme Court, Judges from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Tax Court and Workers Compensation Court and District Courts, Federal Court Judges and Magistrates as well as prominent members of the bar.
The educational aspects of the meetings are designed to educate members on topics that range from current issues to practice skills.
In Minnesota there are three Inns. The Warren E. Burger Inn commenced meetings in 1989. It is the oldest Inn in Minnesota. It is also one of the first Inns chartered nationally. This Inn meets in St. Paul. The Douglas C. Amdahl Inn meets in Minneapolis and the John E. Simonett Inn meets in St. Cloud.
Each of the three Inns meets monthly from September through May. At each meeting, the Inns have an educational meeting that is preceded by socializing and dinner. The educational program may be one or a combination of a CLE format, a discussion format or just plain fun format. Each of the Inns welcomes guests to their monthly meetings.
The Amdahl Inn has about 135 members, the Simonett Inn has approximately 65 members, and the Burger Inn has approximately 90 members. The members in each Inn are divided into 8 table groups headed by a judge. This allows members to socialize with judges, something that most young attorneys do not have a chance to do. It also allows attorneys from different practices to interact with one another and expand their professional network.
The table groups sit together during dinner and work together to put on the program when it is their turn, thus allowing members to become acquainted on more than a superficial basis. It also allows younger attorneys and students the opportunity to seek mentors and advice from the more sage table members. By working together on programs the members are allowed to teach as well as be educated by their colleagues.
The three Inns hold one annual joint meeting. The Inns take turns hosting the annual meeting. These larger meetings are attended by over 100 attorneys from the greater metropolitan area.
Each Inn has members who are from different practice levels. Nationally and locally, the Inns are divided into groups consisting of Judges, Masters (attorneys with 10 years or more experience), Barristers (attorneys with 5 to 10 years experience), Associates (attorneys with 0 to 5 years of experience) and Pupils (law students).
The cost of membership varies at each Inn, due to the costs incurred by each Inn for meals and other local expenses. The dues are sliding scale oriented based on whether one is a Judge, Master, Barrister, Associate or Pupil. The dues vary both as to each Inn and each level.
Membership in an Inn is extended to those members of the profession who wish to participate in the Inn by attending meetings and participating in the development of programs to educate their colleagues. Members are expected to give as much as they get from the Inn or generally they will not be invited to continue membership on a long-term basis. Without the active participation of its members the goals of the Inn cannot be met.
Membership is based upon application to the local Inn. Generally selection of new members is decided during late spring or early summer.
For more information about attending a meeting as a guest and/or joining an Inn contact the following Inn Administrators: