American Inn of Court Model Mentoring Program

Mentoring is a time honored legal tradition and a cornerstone of the American Inns of Court. This model mentoring program is a proven approach for Inns to establish an effective, easily administered mentoring program. It describes the principles and goals for Inn mentoring and suggests a straightforward format of administration, operation and scheduling which can be adapted to meet the needs of individual Inns.

Purpose of the Model Mentoring Program

The purpose of American Inns of Court mentoring is to cultivate professional excellence in support of the American Inns of Court goal of fostering excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills. Inn mentoring will assist members in developing high standards of professionalism based upon internalized principles of appropriate behavior consistent with the legal professions' core values.

Principles of Inn Mentoring

In keeping with the Professional Creed's goals of upholding "the highest standards of excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills" and attaining "the highest level of knowledge and skills" in every members' practice area, the following principles should govern all individual Inn mentoring programs:

  • All Inns are encouraged to actively engage in mentoring as a regular part of their annual programs.
  • All members may participate, either as mentors or protégés, in their Inn's mentoring program.
  • Inn mentoring should primarily address the American Inns of Courts' focus on professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills.
  • Inn mentoring programs should compliment any existing mandatory or voluntary bar or court mentoring programs in their jurisdiction.

Goals of Inn Mentoring Programs

To further the American Inns of Court goal of fostering excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills, the goals of Inn mentoring are:

  • Develop an understanding of generally accepted professional values and standards of behavior and the importance of professionalism in the practice of law.
  • Build awareness of ethical obligations and of proper practices for avoiding mishandling of other's assets, conflicts of interest, neglect of matters, and civil liability problems.
  • Improve professional skills necessary for the effective practice of law at a high level of competence.
  • Develop an appreciation of the importance of supporting and improving the justice system, improving access to justice and the importance of active involvement in the profession and the community.


This program is designed primarily for Inn members with three years experience or less and for students. In general, members serving as mentors should have significant experience in practicing law. These general guidelines may be altered depending on the needs of individual Inns, which may have more experienced members.

Program Administration and Operation Administration: Inn Mentoring Committee

Overall administration of each Inn's mentoring program is the responsibility of the Inn mentoring committee. Inn officers should establish a mentoring committee of three to four members, one of whom will be an Inn officer. The mentoring committee's responsibilities include:

  • Oversight of the operation of the Inn's mentoring program
  • Communicating with Inn members about the existence and organization of the mentoring program.
  • Recruiting Inn mentor groups, group leaders and protégés to be mentored and matching groups of mentors with protégés.
  • Establishing mentoring timelines for each Inn program year.
  • Generating and maintaining a non-inclusive, illustrative list of potential mentoring topics.
  • Providing necessary forms which establish mutual expectations between mentors and protégés.
  • Establishing appropriate mechanisms for accountability to ensure a successful program.
  • Periodic evaluation to improve the program.
  • Troubleshooting if the need arises.

Mentoring Operation

Mentoring will be conducted by Inn mentoring groups appointed by the mentoring committee. Each Inn mentoring group will have a leader, appointed by the mentoring committee, who is responsible for the Inn mentoring group's activities for the program year. Inn mentoring groups, group leaders and protégés will be selected, to the extent possible, by the mentoring committee prior to the start of the Inn's program year. In matching Inn mentoring groups and protégés, the mentoring committee should take into consideration areas of practice, common interest and other relevant factors which will facilitate a successful mentoring experience.

The following guidelines, tailored to the needs of individual Inns, should apply:

  • Size of Inn mentoring groups. Inn mentoring groups should, in general, have no fewer than three and no more than five mentors.
  • Number of protégés assigned to each Inn mentoring group. To facilitate one on one mentoring, the number of protégés assigned to each Inn mentoring group should be the same as the number of mentors.
  • Duration of mentoring. Each mentoring cycle lasts for the duration of one Inn program year (usually 9-12 month).
  • Frequency of meetings. Each protégé should have at least four to five contacts with mentors during the program year, either with the Inn mentoring group or in mentor-protégé pair meetings.
  • Length of meetings. Normally, mentor-protégé meetings, whether in groups or with individual mentors and protégés, should last at least one hour.
  • Time and place of meetings. Inn mentoring group leaders should facilitate convenient meeting schedules.
  • Mentoring topics. Inn mentoring groups and the mentoring committee will agree before the start of the program year on the topic or topics to be covered in mentoring.

A Suggested Format and Schedule for Inn Mentoring

While each Inn mentoring committee and Inn mentoring group may design a mentoring format that best meets the needs of their Inn, the following format is suggested as a workable approach for most mentoring topics.

  • Session One Group Meeting with Mentors and Protégés: Substantive in-depth presentation (actual presentation or group discussion) by one or more members of Inn mentoring group to protégés.
  • Session Two Individual Session: One on one meeting between individual mentors and protégés.
  • Session Three Group Meeting: Group discussion following up on either or both of the first two sessions between mentoring group members and protégés.
  • Session Four Individual Session: One on one meeting between individual mentors and protégés.
  • Session Five Group Meeting: Closing group discussion between mentoring group and protégés to discuss any final issues.

This combination of group presentations, discussions and one on one mentoring has proved to be an effective mentoring technique in other venues.

The Importance of Addressing Professionalism in All Inn Mentoring

Inn mentoring should place high importance on the transmission of professional values to protégés. All mentoring, to the extent reasonable, should address professionalism. Professionalism includes:

  • High competence in legal skills.
  • Adherence to ethical obligations
  • An appreciation of the importance of civility and professional demeanor in all dealings.
  • The importance of pro bono representation and access to justice issues.
  • The importance of participation in bar organizations at the local, state and national levels.
  • The transmission of professional values and standards to less experienced members of the legal profession.
  • Balancing self interest with the interests of clients, the justice system and the public interest.
  • Accountability & Evaluation

Each Inn mentoring group should provide two short progress reports, one mid-year and one at the end of the program year, on the progress of the group's mentoring. Reports are the responsibility of the Inn mentoring group leader. The mentoring committee shall establish the format for the reports.

At the end of the year, the mentoring committee should conduct an evaluation of the Inn's mentoring program, seeking input from mentors and protégés and using information from group reports. The results of the evaluation should serve as a means for continually improving the Inn's mentoring program.

© 2011 AMERICAN INNS OF COURT. The American Inns of Court Model Mentoring Program was developed in conjunction with the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Center for Professionalism for individual American Inns of Court to adapt, implement, and maintain mentoring programs of their own. If you are interested in reproducing this document for use outside of the American Inns of Court, please contact Rita Zimmerman to request permission.