With the new academic year beginning at Tulane Law, it’s also the season for the Tulane Inn of Court.
The now 36-year-old organization is a non-partisan association that promotes professionalism between lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals who share a passion for excellence in their ranks. The Tulane chapter is among the most prestigious within the legal community and one of the oldest in the nation -- one of the best ways law students and practitioners can mingle and mentor.
“Today, more than ever, organizations like the Inns of Court are of the utmost importance. At a time when civility in discourse and being able to simply discuss opposing views in a constructive manner feels on the brink of extinction, heralding and teaching professionalism to our students — the future leaders in the legal profession and beyond — is crucial,” said Interim Law Dean Sally Richardson.
“The Tulane Inn does an excellent job of bringing together the bench, bar, and academy to work together, learn about emerging legal issues, and build a community of ethical, professional lawyers," said Dean Richardson.
Tulane’s Inn of Court boasts some of the most notable names in Louisiana legal circles, including the legendary Judge John Minor Wisdom (L’29) and the late bankruptcy Judge Jerry Brown (L’59), who were original members. The chapter launched in 1987, with the executive board consisting of several familiar names at Tulane: Hon. Charles Schwartz (L’47) the late Dean John Kramer, Jack C. Benjamin (L’50), Hon. James Dennis, Wood Brown III (L’61) and Curtis Boisfontaine (L’52).
Second and third-year law students are invited each year to join the organization and attend events that not only encourage networking, but also provide discussions on pressing matters in the profession.
“It’s definitely about making the profession better by getting together each month, having presentations but also just socializing,” said Tulane Inn of Court President Joseph Briggett (TC '03, L’10), who was invited by Judge Jerry Brown in 2010 to join the Inn as a 3L.
“If you know your fellow practitioners, and you have interactions with them at an Inn event, you are more likely to be professional, to show integrity and act ethically," Briggett said.
The biggest impact of Briggett’s participation in the Tulane Inn was that the judge, renowned for his skill in bankruptcy cases, became a mentor to him. That mentorship had a profound impact on his career: Briggett today practices bankruptcy and maritime law at Lugenbuhl, Wheaton, Peck, Rankin & Hubbard in New Orleans, where he handles commercial litigation and complex commercial bankruptcy cases.
Mentorship is a cornerstone of Tulane’s chapter, which is part of the American Inns of Court, all of which are structured under the traditional English legal apprenticeship model. Briggett said that each year, about 30 second and third-year law students are paired with practicing attorneys who help bridge the gap between the study of law and the practice of law.
A mentorship mixer was held in September in the home of Chief Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown (L’88, L’98), with dozens of judges, lawyers, clerks and students attending. During the event, law students and practitioners were able to chat in hopes that their legal interests would pair up.
Current 3L Hailey Shores was excited for the opportunity to attend the event.
“As a first-generation law student, I am grateful for the opportunity to network with legal professionals, and learn more from practitioners, professors, and other law students,” said Shores (SSE ’21, L’24). “I enjoy meeting new people and sharing my passion for advocacy with others.”
Practitioners, too, lauded the networking sessions and events as a significant part of the Inn’s mission.
“The modest time commitment for students can be invaluable as they are exposed to everything from forums on relevant legal topics to networking opportunities that introduce them to professionals at the forefront of the legal community,” said Collin Buisson (B '15, L’18) who is the Tulane chapter’s Program Chair, and also is an associate at Phelps Dunbar in New Orleans.
Briggett has been a mentor, most recently to 2023 graduates Moises Mizrachi, who is an associate with the New York firm of Shearman & Sterling and Nick Olivencia, who is clerking with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas.
“I really enjoyed just getting lunch or coffee, meeting up with them and hearing what they were up to and giving them some guidance. They didn’t really need it, and I’m so happy to see them heading into federal clerkships and great law firms,” said Briggett.
His mentee, Olivencia, encouraged Tulane Law students to take part in the Inn.
“The ability to network with New Orleans judges and attorneys in a professional social setting was an invaluable opportunity,” said Olivencia (L’23). “As a current bankruptcy law clerk in the Northern District of Texas, I'm very grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to connect with and learn from a seasoned bankruptcy attorney like Joe. My Inn of Court experience was topped off by an amazing experience at the law school where I co-presented a topic for the Inn at the last meeting of the year. I hope Tulane Law students continue to embrace the program for years to come."
In addition to a structured mentorship, members also take part in monthly discussions. In October, for example, Gov. John Bel Edwards will be addressing the Tulane Inn and other local Inns of Court at an annual joint meeting, to be held at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
"The Tulane Inn of Court opens horizons that might otherwise be unattainable,” said Buisson. “As a board member, I enjoy the challenge of staging thought-provoking meetings and seminars that often provide members with a behind-the-curtain look at the legal process.”
The Chapter’s goal, Briggett said, is to not only grow its membership but also to add more judges to its roster.
“That is something that really draws both students and other members to join. It’s just nice to have that higher level of distinction and experience in the group,” he said.
In addition to Chief Judge Nannette Brown, other judges are taking an active role, including Tulane alumna and Judge Shayna Beevers Morvant (B’09, L’12), who is a board member, Judge Nghana Lewis (NC’94), who is a mentor, and Judge Barry Ashe (A&S '78, L’84), who has been a Tulane Inn member for more than 15 years.
And, there will be some events to specifically provide opportunities for students to explore judicial clerkships, so they can consider applying to such positions and learn to improve their writing of briefs.
“The federal judicial clerks are unique because both our practicing attorneys and law students are very interested in what they have to say, but for different reasons,” said Briggett. “Attorneys know that law clerks help the judges decide cases, and want to hear how they think. And law students want to hear about how to apply and gain a position as a law clerk because it offers such great experience and training.”
The Inn, said Richardson, has been an immense source of wisdom and legal connections for Tulane Law students.
“The rich and deep history of the Tulane Inn makes it one of the best in the country,” said Richardson. “The mentorship opportunities the Inn provides are second to none and an invaluable experience for our students. We are so appreciative of the time and commitment that our alums give to the Inn, to our students, and to the greater good of the profession.
For more information on the Tulane Inn of Court, go here.