AND PROCEDURES FOR
ESTABLISHING A CHAPTER OF
THE ORDER OF
The Order of
the Coif is legal education's national honorary society.
The purpose of the Order of the
Coif is“to encourage excellence in legal education by fostering a spirit of careful study, recognizing
those who as law students attained a high grade of scholarship, and honoring those who as lawyers,
judges, and teachers attained high distinction for their scholarly or professional accomplishments.”
Chapters are established at those law schools that demonstrate that their programs serve these
A history of
the Order may be found at at History of Order
of the Coif; in the annual Coif Handbook
and in Strong, Order of the Coif: English Antecedents and American Adaptation, 63 A.B.A.J. (1977).
A. CRITERIA (adopted by the Executive Committee January 9, 1982)
statement of the requirements for the establishment of a chapter
is issued in exercise of the
responsibility imposed by Sections 3.2 and 9.1 of the Coif Constitution upon the Executive Committee
to interpret the Constitution, pass upon the national policy of the Order, and administer its affairs. The
statement is based upon the general principles stated in the Constitution. In determining in particular
what those general principles require, the Executive Committee is guided by the settled practices of
To merit a chapter of the Order of the Coif a law school must comply with the following requirements:
1) ABA Approval and AALS
Membership. The law school must be in
full compliance with the
Standards for the Approval of Law Schools by the American Bar Association and with the requirements
of membership in the Association of American Law Schools.
2) An Established Program.
To assure that the law school and its program are firmly established,
a chapter may not be established at a school until the school has offered instruction for ten consecutive
years and have had one sabbatical site evaluation after the three-year site evaluation following the
granting of full approval.
3) University Affiliation.
A law school should be a functioning part of a university. It is in a
setting that a law school is most likely to encourage scholarship in its students and faculty. If a law
school if not a part of the university or is situated apart from its parent, it must make the arrangements
necessary to bring to its students and faculty the advantages that would normally flow to it from being a
part of a university. These advantages include library resources relating to other disciplines and the
involvement of faculty from other disciplines in its teaching and scholarship.
4) Part-time Program.
A law school may offer a part-time as well as a full-time first degree
and graduate degree programs. If a law school offers a part-time first degree program, it must offer to the
part-time students an instructional program substantially as rich as that offered the full-time students and
must make arrangements concerning its co-curricular programs that facilitate participation therein by the
part-time students. The law school shall remove the obstacles to scholarship by the full-time faculty that
is sometimes presented by teaching in an evening program. This may be done by giving appropriate
attention to, among other things,teaching loads and schedules.
5) Educational Environment. The law school
shall provide for its students a stimulating intellectual
environment for the study of law.
6) Commitment of the University and Law School
Administration to Quality Legal Education. The
University and law school administration must be committed to quality legal education and must make
the necessary institutional arrangements that will facilitate the presentation of a program of quality legal
education. The institutional arrangements among the faculty, dean, central administration and, in the
case of state-supported institutions, the central state educational authority shall fully recognize the
professional competence and judgment of the law faculty and dean concerning the school’s educational
program and faculty appointments. The dean and faculty shall periodically examine the school’s
educational, effective discharge of the missions selected.
7) Faculty. The faculty
must be not only dedicated and effective teachers but also productive
scholars of works of quality. Quality scholarship may include law reform, such as that done by reporters
for the American Law Institute, National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and state
law revision commissions. The law school shall maintain conditions that facilitate the full-time faculty
members effective discharge of their teaching and scholarly responsibilities. These conditions include
adequate secretarial and research assistance and adequate funds for professional travel.
8) Educational Program.
The law school’s first degree program shall provide instruction
the basic courses but also in some of the newer areas of the law. Through courses and seminars the
students must be given opportunities to develop their research and writing skills. The school shall present
a rich and varied program of cocurricular activities, such as law journal, moot trial and appellate court and
client counseling, that will assist the students in developing their skills of scholarship and lawyering. The
approach taken in teaching must include a jurisprudential and humanistic view of the law and have concern
not only for what the law is but for what it might be.
9) Student Body. The
student body should be composed of persons with a rich and varied
experiential background and must bring to their law studies excellent academic credentials. The students
shall manifest a professional attitude towards their responsibilities as students and an intellectual interest in
the law and legal institutions.
10) Law Library. The
law library collection must be of the size and quality that will
and encourage the research activities of the students and faculty. The library's professional staff shall provide
a high level of professional assistance to the teaching and scholarly program of the school.
11) Physical Facilities.
The law school’s physical facilities shall be of a size and
the attainment by the law school of its educational goals.
Summary of the Process. The process leading
to the establishment of a chapter at a law school begins
its review of the criteria for membership (see above). If the dean or other representatives of the interested
law school have questions or wish to discuss the matter, the school should contact the Secretary-
Treasurer. The process ends when the chapters affirmatively accept by written ballot the Executive
Committee’s recommendation that a chapter be established at the law school.
1. An application for new chapter should be filed within
two years following sabbatical inspection of
the school by the ABA and after the school has received the final letter from the ABA stating that the
school remains on the list of ABA approved law schools and it has received notification from the AALS that
it has satisfied the membership requirements with no further reports or requests for information required.
The first formal step iin the process is the dean's letter on behalf of the law school stating its wish that a
chapter of the Order be established at the school. Accompanying the letter or submitted shortly thereafter
is the documentationm that will permit the Executive Committee to determine whether it appears that the
school merits a chapter. The Secretary-Treasurer reviews the documentation to determine if there is
additional information that the Executive Committee is likely to need. If so, he or she willl ask for these a
2. If the Executive Committee
determines upon the basis of the documentation that the applying school
merits a chapter in the Order, it may take one of two steps. The President may appoint a member of the
Executive Copmmitee to write a confidential report on on the school on the basis of the submitted record or
may appoint a team to conduct a site evaluation and prepare a written report of its findings. On the basis of
one of these reports and the descriptive and quantitative data submitted by the law school, the Executive
Committee determines whether the school meets the requirements for the establishment of a chapter.
3. If it concludes that the
school merits a chapter, the Secretary-Treasurer transmits to the
chapters for vote by mail ballot the Executive Committee’s recommendation that a chapter be established
and a description of the law school and its program of legal education . Upon a favorable vote of 80 percent
or more of the chapters on a school’s application for a charter, the Secretary-Treasurer declares the creation
of the new chapter and issues the school a charter. (Source: Coif Constitution §4.1)
Informal Consultation. If the school wishes
to consult with the national Secretary-Treasurer concerning
the procedure and criteria for the establishment of a chapter, the dean or other representative of the law
school should initiate the contact. If there are aspects of a law school and its program that raise questions
about compliance with Coif requirements, discussions with the Secretary-Treasurer may prove helpful.
While the Secretary-Treasurer is obviously not in a position to determine on behalf of the Order that a
potential applicant school meets the criteria, he or she should be able to help the law school identify the
areas, if any, that may need additional attention before a formal application is made.
Application. The law school makes its formal
application for a chapter by a letter signed by the dean
that is addressed to the President by November 1st. The letter should state that the dean believes that
the law school qualifies for a chapter and that accordingly the law school makes application for the
establishment of a chapter. In this letter or an accompanying memorandum, the dean should describe
briefly the particulars that demonstrate that the law school complies with each of the eleven requirements
for the establishment of a chapter.
Two printed copies of the application shall be sent to
the Secretary-Treasurer, along with seven thumb
(flash) drive copies of the materials described below and a $500 application fee. The application is
1. Letter or memorandum
from the dean of the applicant school summarizing the school’s
compliance with the eleven requirements for a Coif chapter.
2. Completed forms for Part I, Part II, Part II-A, Part III and Part IV
3. The law school catalog.
4. The reports from the most recent ABA and AALS site
along with the correspondence
from the ABA and AALS with respect to their findings, conclusions or concerns based on the most recent
site inspection. The ABA must have made a final decision, with no outstanding requests for further
information, that the school is in full compliance with the Standards for Approval of Law Schools. Likewise,
the AALS must have made a final decision, with no outstanding requests for further information, that the
school meets the membership requirements of the AALS. It is strongly recommended that applications for
chapters be filed within two years following a sabbatical inspection of the school by the ABA and AALS.
5. Supporting documents setting forth the following information:
(1) Biographical information about the education and professional
of the full-time
tenure and tenure-track faculty,
(2) Biographical information for other full-time faculty members for whom scholarship is not
expected and an indication of why there is no scholarship expectation (e.g., in some schools
legal writing faculty have no expectat of publication),
(3) A list of the adjunct faculty with the subjects taught,
(4) Bibliography of faculty publications for the past five years, and
(5) Faculty support (sabbatical policy, research assistance, research grants, and other types
of faculty support). For research grants and sabbaticals indicate the number granted
annually and the amount of summer and other research grants).
(B) Library(1) A description of the library's collection highlighting collection size; areas of strength and depth;
(1) The qualifications (LSAT & GPA) of students admitted for the
5-year period, and
(2) The attrition rate for a 5-year period. This is to be shown by comparing the number of
students admitted to a given class with the number who actually graduated. (Example:
students admitted to first year in 2005 - 150; students graduating in June, 2008 - 125.)
(D) Financial Support
(1) The annual law school budget.
(2) Private schools shall in addition state the percentage of the budget funded by tuition.
(E) Extra Curricular Activities
(1) List pf the journals edited or published by the applicant school,
(2) Description of any special or endowed lectureships or other types of enrichment programs.
The school's materials shall be accompanied by an application
$500; this fee is designed to cover the direct expenses of the Order in processing the application.
Executive Committee’s Determination. On basis of the
documentation submitted, the Executive
Committee determines whether this data indicates that the school appears to meet the criteria for
establishing a new chapter in the Order.” The Secretary-Treasurer reviews the documentation to
determine if there is additional information that the Executive Committee is likely to want. If so, he or
she will ask the dean for these additional data.
Executive Committee customarily
meets only once a year, during the annual meeting of the AALS.
A school’s application for membership must be filed by the first day of November to be considered at the next
Determinations by the Executive Committee. If the Executive
Committee determines that the
applicant school does not meet the criteria for creation of a chapter, it informs the school of its judgment.
The school may not reapply for three years following the meeting at which the application was considered.
Positive Determinations by the Executive Committee.
If the Executive Committee determines upon
the basis of the documentation that the applying school merits a chapter in the Order, it may take one of
two steps. The President may appoint a member of the Executive Committee to write a confidential
report on the school on the basis of the submitted record or may appoint a team to conduct a site
evaluation of the school and produce a written report of its findings. On the basis of one of these reports
and the descriptive and quantitative data submitted by the law school, the Executive Committee
determines whether the school meets the requirements for the establishment of a chapter.
Confidential report from Executive Committee. The designated member of the Executive Committee
drafts a report on the school summarizing the documentation submitted by the school. The report shall
contain sufficient detail to enable the Committee to make its initial determination. The report will be sent
to the chapters of the Order of the Coif as documentation to support a recommendation from the Executive
Committee that a new chapter be established at the school.
Evaluation Inspection. If the Executive Committee determines that the school appears to meet the
criteria for establishing a chapter but has some doubt or needs additional data, the President may appoint
a visitation team for a site evaluation. The on-site inspection of the school may be made in either the fall
or spring term, but the fall term is preferable. As soon as the inspection team is appointed, the dean and the
chairperson of the team should confer about the times most appropriate for the inspection. It is essential
that the inspection team have an opportunity to visit classes and confer with faculty and students.
Therefore, the inspection must take place while classes are in session. It is important that the inspection
team have an opportunity to confer with the chief executive officer of the university; therefore, the inspection
should be scheduled at a time that the president or chancellor is available for an exit interview.
The inspection team is composed
of three or four persons. A dean, a full time teacher and a
commonly compose the team. Occasionally, a judge, practitioner or non-legal educator participates in the
visit. The inspection teams are composed of persons who have been elected to the Order. The applying
school’s program and organizational structure are taken into account in selecting the visitors; visitors
whose experience especially qualify them to inspect the school in question are sought. However, persons
who have an association with the law school, university, dean or faculty member that might appear to
impair their capacity to make a full, fair and candid evaluation of the school are avoided. Former members
of the faculty and graduates of the school are, therefore, not appointed to a school’s inspection team.
The Inspection. The dean and chairperson of
the inspection make the arrangements for the visit and
develop the schedule for the visit. The team shall be provided with the same documentation as that
submitted to the Executive Committee.
The members of the inspection team submit their statement
of expenses incurred in making the
inspection to the dean. The dean should arrange to have these expenses reimbursed promptly.
Additionally, the school shall pay to the Order an inspection fee of $150; this fee is designed to cover
the direct expenses of the Order in managing the inspection visit.
Inspection Report. The inspection team should
promptly prepare a comprehensive report setting out its
findings with the respect to the different aspects of the school’s administration and program. The
chairperson of the team should send a draft of the report to the dean, with the request that it be reviewed
to determine whether it contains any inadvertent errors of fact. The dean should promptly inform the
chairperson of the team of any errors. The inspection report should be finalized and sent to the
Secretary-Treasurer for distribution to the Executive Committee, members of the team, and the president
and dean of the applicant school. Distribution of the report is restricted. The president or dean may make
the report available to members of the full time faculty and those members of the university and law school
administration who official reason to have access to the inspection report. Persons obtaining access to the
report should be informed of the restrictions on its distribution.
Consideration by the Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee’s responsibility is to determine
upon the basis of the inspection report and the other information that has been submitted to it by the
school whether to recommend to the chapters of the Order that a chapter be established at the applicant
school. The dean is invited to submit to the Executive Committee a statement of material developments
that have occurred since the report was written and any germane comments.
The Executive Committee may make its determination at
its annual meeting in January or by remote
Recommendation to the Chapters. If the Executive
Committee determines that
the applicant school meets the criteria for the creation of a chapter, it informs the chapters of its judgment
and recommends that the chapters grant the application.
Prior to mailing the ballots and materials to the chapters,
the applicant school pays a
chartering fee of $250 to cover the direct costs of submitting the Executive Committee recommendation to
the chapter and of related actions.
Vote by Chapters. The Secretary-Treasurer
submits to the chapters by mail the Executive
Committee’s determination that the applicant merits a chapter and recommendation that a chapter
therefore be created. Documentation such as the written report from the Executive Committee or the
inspection report is provided to the chapters along with other information the schools wishes to provide.
To avoid submission
for the creation of chapters arriving at the chapter school at
times that a number of the faculty are likely to be away, the Coif Constitution specifies that these
recommendations may not be mailed to the chapters between April 1 and September 15. The chapters
are asked to vote within 40 days of the mailing of the memorandum containing the recommendation for the
creating of a chapter. Those chapters that have not voted within 45 days after the mailing of the
memorandum are recorded as voting affirmatively. A favorable vote of 80 percent or more of the chapters
is required for the establishment of a charter.