Where to Find Meaningful Mentoring

By Michael Pellicciotti


Everyone can benefit by networking and learning from others in the profession. In particular, those new to the practice of law can benefit from the mentoring of more experienced members of the bar.

A good place to develop a meaningful mentoring relationship is within an American Inn of Court. Based on the traditional English model of legal apprenticeship, American Inns of Court (AIC) bring together judges, legal scholars, and experienced practicing lawyers to serve as mentors to new lawyers and, in some cases, law students. At local and national meetings and other gatherings, AIC members engage in conversations for the purposes of improving legal ethics, civility, and professionalism. They also give special attention to helping less-experienced lawyers learn about the practice of law.

Inns are located in communities across the country. More than 20,000 judges, lawyers, law professors, and third-year law students are members. Inn membership is divided by legal experience, and is headed by the Masters of the Bench. These masters are the judges, experienced lawyers, and law professors of the Inn, who serve as mentors to the less experienced Barristers, Associates, and Pupils.

The idea for the American Inns of Court sprung to life after an English-U.S. exchange of lawyers and judges during the 1970s. As a result of this exchange, Chief Justice Warren Burger formed a special committee within the Judicial Conference of the United States. This committee examined whether a national organization patterned after the English model would help promote American legal professionalism, civility, and ethics. The Judicial Conference endorsed the development of the Inns.

The American Inns of Court Foundation serves as the unifying force for the community-based Inns across the country. The Foundation helps to ensure the mission, goals, and vitality of the Inns by disseminating information through national newsletters, membership directories, publication catalogues, and regional and national conferences.

Most Inns include members from across the civil and criminal litigation practice areas. However, some Inns specialize in their membership, with members coming from particular practice areas, such as criminal practice, bankruptcy, or employment or labor law.

Most members of Inns are required to attend monthly meetings and participate in mentorship programs. Dues vary by Inn. Most of the funds generated by dues go to cover the costs of local meetings, programming, and Foundation dues. Your local Inn can provide you with information regarding the cost of membership and the time commitment required of its members.

Those interested in joining an Inn should contact their local group directly. Each Inn has its own membership criteria and requirements. Inns usually have around 80 active members.

To find out more about the American Inns of Court, to discover if you have an Inn in your area, or to find out how to create an Inn in your community, review the American Inns of Court national website at www.innsofcourt.org

Michael Pellicciotti attends Gonzaga School of Law as a Thomas More Scholar. He is also a member of the ABA GPSolo Section and currently serves on the national Board of Governors of the ABA Law Student Division. He can be reached at pellicmj@hotmail.com .
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