The founders of our nation dared to believe, as Thomas Paine did, that they could begin the world over again. They understood that liberty under the law is the finest way of life humanity could imagine. Despite their commitment to this idea, our country remains a work-in-progress 244 years after our Declaration of Independence.
Lawyers have been the principal architects of our society and will continue to play leading roles in our collective quest for equal justice under the law. As officers of the courts, lawyers, like the courts themselves, are instruments and agents to advance the ends of justice. They defend the Constitution. They are the guardians of our liberty. They are protectors of the powerless. They advocate just causes no matter how unpopular. They are the wise counselors of our society.
The American Inns of Court was founded over 40 years ago to advance the Rule of Law by inspiring the members of our noble profession to achieve the highest level of professionalism. We envision a legal profession and judiciary dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility, and excellence. We believe that the legal profession is called upon to do great work for this country.
All of us are currently facing a defining moment. Recent events have revealed our nation’s vulnerability. Fear and uncertainty have undermined mutual respect in our land of the free. They have shaken our freedom from fear. Civil debate is drowned out in the marketplace of ideas by shrill cries of alarm, and the steady drumbeat of distrust threatens to turn neighbor against neighbor.
An individual’s pursuit of happiness cannot succeed unless the community also succeeds. Ordering our society under the Rule of Law is a way of expressing respect for the independence and dignity of all persons, and this respect is indispensable for a community to flourish.
In times like this, our nation has looked to lawyers for guidance and leadership. It was an appellate lawyer from Virginia who wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was a trial lawyer from Illinois who issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a corporate lawyer from New York who led the county through the darkest hours of the Great Depression and a world war. And it was two country lawyers from North Carolina and Tennessee who reaffirmed that none of us are above the law.
The American Inns of Court and its members will pursue their high calling to be champions of reason and civility. We will call upon our colleagues to promote respect for the rule of law as a remedy to the distrust that has sown the seeds of dispute and division. We will encourage all members of our noble profession to look to change, to look to improvement, and to promote equal justice under law by serving those whose pressing legal needs are going unmet.
William C. Koch Jr.
American Inns of Court | 225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 770 | Alexandria, VA 22314
703-684-3590 | www.innsofcourt.org