“Inn”side the Denver Inns of Court
by Becky Bye, Judge Alfred Harrell, Natalie Lucas
by Becky Bye and Natalie Lucas with special assistance and contributions from Judge Alfred Harrell
The Denver community hosts many excellent legal organizations. Included in this group are the Inns of Court. The Inns of Court provide their members a unique opportunity to become more effective advocates while also establishing long-term friendships.
The Inns of Court originally were formed in London as the professional associations for lawyers. In the late 1970s, a pilot program for the English Inns of Court concept started in the United States after some dialogue regarding the idea between lawyers and judges in the United States and the United Kingdom. The first American Inn of Court was founded in 1980 in the Provo/Salt Lake City area and also included students from the nearby Brigham Young University. Over the years, the American Inn concept expanded, and in 1985, the American Inns of Court Foundation officially commenced. (See www.innsofcourt.org for more information on the American Inns of Court history and for a list of all chapters in the United States).
Colorado joined the movement to incorporate the Inns of Court for the legal community, along with the historical traditions of professionalism and mentorship that the English Inns of Court encompass. The first charter for the Denver area granted by the American Inns of Court went to the Judge William E. Doyle Inn. The Doyle Inn was the 19th Inn established in the United States.
Led by U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane, Jr., the first organizational meeting of the Doyle Inn was held on Aug. 28, 1986, at the Denver Cactus Club. The Inn members, called Master Benchers and Barristers, conducted elections and discussed the ensuing year’s program. The officers elected were: Judge John P. Moore, President; Peter P. Watson, Counselor; Judge John Kane, Secretary; Justice Luis Rovira, Treasurer; Professor Steve Rench, Chronicler; David Tenner, Assistant Chronicler; and Kenneth Fimberg, Reporter. Sheldon Friedman was designated Meetings Coordinator and Dan Reilly Chairman of Membership.
The first full meeting of the Doyle Inn was held at the Cactus Club on Oct. 29, 1986. Judge Lewis T. Babcock’s group led a discussion of some of the aches, pains, and tribulations of being a trial lawyer, and the various factors that inspire and motivate attorneys. The second meeting was held on Nov. 19, 1986. Judge Alfred Harrell recalls that his group was responsible for the topic, and elected to discuss the Bar’s obligation to provide pro bono assistance to those unable to obtain paid services.
When Judge Kane started the first Inn of Court in Colorado, he envisioned the creation of other Inns in Colorado. He also spoke to the need for inclusiveness in the Inn movement. Judge Kane predicted the creation of specialty Inns—bankruptcy, white collar crime and family law—throughout the nation; his prediction has come to fruition.
When Judge Alfred Arraj died in 1992, Judge Kane suggested the creation of Colorado’s second Inn of Court and urged that it be named in tribute to the distinguished jurist’s legal career. Because Judge Harrell was then President of the Doyle Inn, Judge Kane considered him to be the best person to lead the second Inn’s creation.
"Initially, I was overwhelmed by the challenge; however, with Judge Kane’s encouragement, mentoring, and counsel, and the support of the Denver legal community, the task was accomplished," Judge Harrell said.
In addition to the Doyle and Arraj Inns, the other of the five Denver-based Inns include: the Thompson G. Marsh Inn, the Robert C. Rhone-Ava M. Brackett Inn, and the Minori Yasui Inn. Rounding out all Colorado Inns of Court, the Byron R. White Inn of Court operates from the Fort Collins/Windsor area, and the Ben S. Wendelken Inn of Court operates in the Colorado Springs area.
Although each Inn of Court has its own identity, the Inns share a common mission to foster professionalism, ethics, and the skills of the Bench and the Bar. Like the English Inns of Court, the American Inns of Court are comprised of lawyers from varying backgrounds, judges, professors, and law students. Within each Inn are smaller subgroups, called "pupilage groups." Each pupilage group includes one judge, several experienced lawyers, several lawyers with mid-level experience, junior lawyers, and several law students. The pupilage group provides a more intimate group for mentorship and professional camaraderie. Additionally, each pupilage group is typically responsible for organizing and conducting a presentation for one of the Inn’s meetings.
Heidi Kutcher, past-president of the Rhone-Brackett Inn, explained that in the last few years, Rhone-Brackett has organized thematic presentations. For example, last year all of its presentations had professionalism themes, stemming from the Honorable Marcia Krieger’s article, "A Twenty-First Century Ethos for the Legal Profession: Why Bother?" 86 Univ. of Denver L.Rev. 865 (2009).
Monthly presentations for all of the Inns can range from speakers of interest (lawyers or non-lawyers) to panels and debates on heated topics of interest to lawyers to thought-provoking skits and plays regarding the legal profession and legal ethics. The mood of these presentations, like the subject matters themselves, can vary from somber to humorous. The Inns encourage interaction by Inn members and their guests in the form of discussions and critique.
Each Inn of Court in the Denver area meets on a set night once per month, save for summer months. The night typically begins with a social cocktail hour followed by a sit-down dinner and Inn announcements and administrative matters. After dinner, the responsible pupilage group presents its program for about an hour. Several Inns promote meetings of the pupilage groups outside the monthly meetings to foster additional mentoring and networking opportunities.
Occasionally, the Denver Inns of Court will have a late-summer social, called an "Inn Summit." At this less formal event, Inns from the metro area gather for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and socializing, so that members from the Inns can meet each other in a more casual environment. This year’s Inn Summit was held on Aug. 26 and was attended by more than 250 people.
Inn members from all of the Denver Inns rave about their experience in their Inn and how it has contributed to their professional growth and well-being.
Peter Murphy, a long-time member of the Doyle Inn, speaks highly of how the Inn contributes to his professional growth: "Since I joined as a student member 17 years ago, the other members have always been a source of inspiration for me. Longtime practitioners and judges are willing to share their wisdom and the privilege of retrospection, and student members and associate barristers bring a certain level of vitality and creativity. We’re all interested in improving the tone and tenor of our professional interaction. The best way to do that is remind ourselves that we became human beings long before we became lawyers. And when that many driven, smart and engaging people are unleashed for a few hours of fellowship once a month the conversations can be extremely rewarding, with most members willing to talk about anything. . .except the cases that I’m working on. That would be too boring."
Misty Ewegen, a mid-level attorney, joined Rhone-Brackett Inn as a law student and continued as an active Inn member as a practicing attorney for a variety of reasons: "My legal training was punctuated by regular interactions with lawyers and judges who were concerned about civility in the law, ethical legal practice, and supportive mentoring. I received advice from Inn members that helped me with my classes, my clinical work and my career. . . .I believe I am a better lawyer thanks to the additional education, exposure, and support I have gotten from the Inns of Court. However, I believe I am a better person because of the relationships I have built with other members of the organization and the friendships I am so blessed to have."
Phil James, a member of the Arraj Inn since 1993, has found the Inn experience valuable throughout his career. As a younger attorney, James enjoyed being able to visit with judges, and grow more comfortable among them.
"I was permitted to participate as an officer in a lawyer’s organization for the first time," James said. "Then, as I got older, I was able to mentor younger attorneys."
Rick Gleason, President of the Minori Yasui Inn for 2010–11, summarizes his perspective on the Inns: "The Inn provides a unique opportunity for lawyers, judges, and students to engage with one another in a collegial setting. It fosters a sense of community that reminds us that we each have responsibility for the quality and health of our legal system."
Judge Alfred Harrell and Judge Kerry Hada regularly host presentations at the Colorado law schools promoting the Inns of Court. If you are interested in obtaining more information about joining an Inn of Court, please contact Judge Harrell at email@example.com or Judge Hada, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becky Bye and Natalie Lucas are members of the Doyle and Arraj Inns, respectively.
Photos by Misty Ewegen, Historian of the Rhone-Brackett Inn