Professional Excellence: Mentoring and Networking
Don't let the somewhat stodgy name fool you. The American Inns of Court – an association of lawyers, judges, legal academics, and law students who share a passion for professional excellence – is one of the most successful legal mentoring organizations in the country. Founded in the late 1970s by Chief Justice Warren Burger and some of his colleagues with the purpose of promoting professionalism and ethics in mentoring for young lawyers, the American Inns took the model of the British Inns and made it fit the American legal profession.
Today, Penn Law’s Inn of Court offers camaraderie, education, and a chance for true relationship-building among a vibrant community of current and future members of the bar. Members of the Penn Law Inn meet each month for a cocktail hour, "breaking bread" over dinner, and a presentation that typically involves a mock case and raises hot legal issues of the day. Students work directly with judges and practitioners in preparing and delivering the presentations, which are eligible for CLE credit.
Recently, Judge Gene E.K. Pratter L’75 spoke about her experience as a member of the Penn Law Inn of Court.
Hon. Gene E.K. Pratter L'75
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
The Inns of Court is a national effort and activity throughout the country and Penn is one of quite of number of Inns of Court. We are drawn together by certain professional goals, principally ethics, and civility, and the highest calling of the law profession, the legal profession. Practitioners, academics, and students get together – we meet once a month during the academic school year, organized into different groups, and we put on certain programs to share certain developments in the law with each other.
But there is a lot of camaraderie and a lot of just good times that are had by everybody. We have a cocktail hour and we have a dinner before each of our programs. And then each month we have an academic-like program, often in the form or a skit, so that it's a rather painless way of learning. But it's a hugely amusing and an enjoyable activity.
Most of the participants in the Penn of Inn of Court have a relationship of some fashion or another with the university. The practitioners, almost all, practice law here in Philadelphia. Many of us are Penn alums. And then, of course, the student members are third-year students who apply to be accepted into the Inn of Court and are evaluated by one of the associate deans here in terms of their suitability to be part of the program.
So, we have a great time. And I think the students like it. They certainly enjoy meeting some of the practitioners and the judges. Our Inn of Court has probably six to eight judges, most of us federal judges who are members of the Inn. And we enjoy it a great deal. It's always nice to get out of the robe and into a more natural setting.