This handbook will introduce you to the American Inns of Court and to the Harry Phillips American Inn of Court. Its purpose is to acquaint you with the history of the American Inns of Court movement in the United States and in Tennessee and with the operation of the Harry Phillips AIC.

American Inns of Court

The American Inns of Court is the fastest growing legal organization in the country. Today, there are nearly 400 chartered American Inns of Court in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Tokyo. More than 30,000 state, federal, and administrative law judges, attorneys, legal scholars, and students in their final year of law school are currently active members of an American Inn of Court.

American Inns of Court are patterned after the English Inns of Court that began in 1292 when King Edward I directed his Chief Justice to satisfy a growing need for skilled advocates at the Royal Court at Westminster. The English Inns of Court grew in number and importance during the Middle Ages. They emphasized the value of learning the craft of lawyering from those already established in the profession. Their collegial environment fostered common goals and nurtured professional ideals and ethics.

In 1977 Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and other American lawyers and judges spent two weeks in England as part the Anglo-American Exchange. They were particularly impressed with the collegial approach of the English Inns of Court and with the way in which the Inns passed on to new lawyers the decorum, civility, and professional standards necessary for a properly functioning bar. Following his return, Chief Justice Burger authorized a pilot program that could be adapted to the realities of law practice in the United States.

Chief Justice Burger, former Solicitor General Rex Lee, and Senior United States District Judge A. Sherman Christensen founded the first American Inn of Court in 1980. The Inn was affiliated with the J. Reuben Clark School of Law at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The number of Inns increased slowly at first, but the growth of the movement began to accelerate in 1985 with the creation of the American Inns of Court Foundation.

The Hamilton Burnett AIC, Tennessee’s first American Inn of Court, was founded in 1988 in Knoxville. The Harry Phillips AIC, Tennessee’s second Inn, was formed in 1990. Since then, eight other Inns have been formed in Tennessee — The Leo Bearman, Sr. AIC in Memphis in 1995; The Tennessee John Marshall AIC in Franklin in 1997; The Andrew Jackson AIC in Murfreesboro in 1998; The Justices Ray L. Brock, Jr.-Robert E. Cooper AIC in Chattanooga in 2001; The Howell Edmunds Jackson AIC in Jackson in 2010; The Belmont University College of Law AIC in 2011; The Memphis ADR AIC; and Tennessee’s newest Inn, The Nashville Entertainment and IP Law AIC in Nashville in 2021.

Mission of the American Inns of Court

The Mission of the American Inns of Court is to foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills for judges, lawyers, academicians, and students of the law in order to perfect the quality, availability and efficiency of justice in the United States.

Professional Creed

Whereas, the Rule of Law is essential to preserving and protecting the rights and liberties of a free people; and

Whereas, throughout history, lawyers and judges have preserved, protected and defended the Rule of Law in order to ensure justice for all; and

Whereas, preservation and promulgation of the highest standards of excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills are essential to achieving justice under the Rule of Law;

Now therefore, as a member of an American Inn of Court, I hereby adopt this professional creed with a pledge to honor its principles and practices:

  • I will treat the practice of law as a learned profession and will uphold the standards of the profession with dignity, civility and courtesy.
  • I will value my integrity above all. My word is my bond.
  • I will develop my practice with dignity and will be mindful in my communications with the public that what is constitutionally permissible may not be professionally appropriate.
  • I will serve as an officer of the court, encouraging respect for the law in all that I do and avoiding abuse or misuse of the law, its procedures, its participants and its processes.
  • I will respect the interests of my client with vigor and will seek the most expeditious and least costly solutions to problems, resolving disputes through negotiation whenever possible.
  • I will work continuously to attain the highest level of knowledge and skill in the areas of the law in which I practice.
  • I will contribute time and resources to public service, charitable activities and pro bono work.
  • I will work to make the legal system more accessible, responsive and effective.
  • I will honor the requirements, the spirit and the intent of the applicable rules or codes of professional conduct for my jurisdiction, and will encourage others to do the same.