Mentoring is a time honored legal tradition and a cornerstone of the American Inns of Court. This page is designed to offer resources and inspiration for your own Inn mentoring programs. The information weaves principles and goals for Inn mentoring together with practical applications for all levels and types of engagement.

The American Inns of Court Professional Creed states a goal 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.


…cultivates professional distinction.
…fosters excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills.
…assists members in developing high standards of professionalism.
…leads to internalized principles of appropriate behavior consistent with the legal professions' core values.

Principles of Inn Mentoring

Here are four principles that should guide the creation and implementation of every Inn mentoring program:

  • Engagement: All Inns are encouraged to actively engage in mentoring as a regular part of their annual programs.
  • Participation: All members may participate, either as mentors or mentees, in their Inn's mentoring program.
  • Focus: Inn mentoring should primarily address the American Inns of Courts' focus on professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills.
  • Complementary: Inn mentoring programs should complement 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 efforts should be:

  • Values & Standards: Develop an understanding of generally accepted professional values and standards of behavior and the importance of professionalism in the practice of law.
  • Ethical Awareness: 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.
  • Skill-Building: Improve professional skills necessary for the effective practice of law at a high level of competence.
  • Involvement: 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.


The National Office has chosen to use the terms “mentor” to denote the person dispensing advice and counsel and “mentee” to denote the person on the receiving end. We have done this because we believe that mentoring can be found in all kinds of relationships, at different levels and stages of careers and through varying interests and skill sets.  We find that many of the other terms used for “mentee” connote very specific and proscriptive relationships; we want to avoid boxing people in. However, at the Inn level, you may choose to use different terms that work for your Inn culture and program…and that is A-OK!

Be bold. Be creative. Be successful.
Have a story you want to share?
We want to hear it!
Have a question about mentoring?
We’re here to answer it!
Running out of ideas?
We’re here to help!

Why Mentoring is Important

Alex Haley, one of Tennessee’s favorite sons, kept a painting of a turtle on the top of a fence post in his home office in Henning. When asked about the painting, Haley would say that he hung it in his office to remind him of an important lesson—if you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it had some help. The same can be said of lawyers and judges. When you happen upon a truly professional lawyer or judge, you can comfortably presume he or she is not self-made. Legal professionals did not master their craft without some help. The American Inns of Court champions a legal profession dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility, and excellence. One of our strategic goals is to be a primary resource to the profession for mentoring and education focused on professionalism.  In his 1881 masterpiece, The Common Law, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. observed that “[t]he life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” This holds true today. Each of us can nurture the life and growth of the law by passing along the lessons we have learned from our experiences by being both a mentor and a mentee.

—The Honorable William C. Koch Jr.
American Inns of Court, president 2018–2020