July 2018

The Inn Crowd: Why Join an American Inn of Court

By Audrey Wood

Dinsmore & Shohl LLP

San Diego County is home to six American Inns of Court, and yet many attorneys are unfamiliar with the Inns of Court organization. The American Inns of Court provide young attorneys a unique and robust opportunity to be part of a community of experienced attorneys and judges who gather to promote competence in the profession and mentor younger attorneys. San Diego’s six Inns of Court are:

  • Louis M. Welsh
  • Hon. William B. Enright
  • William L. Todd, Jr.
  • Hon. J. Clifford Wallace
  • Hon. Florenzo V. Lopardo
  • San Diego Appellate Inn (the newest Inn, charted in 2016)

The American Inns of Court were founded by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, and loosely modeled after the English system. The first American Inn of Court was established in 1980. The American Inns of Court now boast 379 chartered Inns, comprised of an impressive membership group of judges, attorneys, and even law students. The American Inns of Court were designed to improve trial advocacy through the establishment of collegial, social, and mentoring groups nationwide. Today the mission of the Inns of Court is more expansive, with a focus on fostering excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills.

Each Inn of Court meets monthly. The Inn is comprised of three membership levels: young attorneys, more experienced attorneys, and seasoned veteran attorneys and judges. This large collective is divided into smaller groups, or “pupillage teams,” with a balance of the three levels. Each team conducts one program for the Inn each year, concerning an aspect of litigation or trial practice. The programs are highly instructional. These smaller groups also gather informally outside of the monthly meetings. This allows the less experienced attorneys to learn from and become familiar with the more experienced attorneys and judges outside the courtroom and pressure of daily practice. A new attorney’s schedule is hectic already, so why add another meeting to the packed calendar?

Each Inn provides meaningful social engagement between attorneys. The monthly meetings promote personal engagement, camaraderie, and connections between all levels of members. The smaller group meetings allow the more seasoned attorneys and judges to help shape those newer in the practice of law with practical guidance.

The collegial atmosphere of the Inns of Court is not to be underestimated, and any young attorney looking to socialize with and learn from seasoned practitioners should consider applying for membership.