Criteria & Procedures for Establishing a Chapter:
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 objectives.
A history of the Order may be found 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).
(adopted by the Executive Committee January 9, 1982)
This 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 the Order.
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 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 university 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 program 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 not only in 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 educational 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 adequately support 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 quality that promote 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 in 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 documentation 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 will ask for these additional data.
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 Committee 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 composed of:
1. Letter or memorandum from the dean of the applicant school summarizing the school’s
compliance with the eleven requirements for a Coif chapter.
3. The law school catalog.
4. The reports from the most recent ABA and AALS site inspection 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 experience 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 expectation 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).
(1) A description of the library’s collection highlighting collection size; areas of strength and depth; the proportion of online resources and microforms versus print; any unique aspects of the collection,
(2) The financial support provided for the library, listing separately the amount allocated for new acquisitions,
(3) A description of the library’s services and engagement in the intellectual life of the school, and
(4) The professional staff of the library.
(1) The qualifications (LSAT & GPA) of students admitted for the prior 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, and
(2) Description of any special or endowed lectureships or other types of enrichment programs.
The school’s materials shall be accompanied by an application fee of
$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.
The 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 January meeting.
Negative 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 librarian 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 communication.
Executive Committee 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.
Chartering Fee. 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 of recommendations 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.
Materials can be mailed to:
Sandra R. Jones
6530 Kimesville Road
Liberty, NC 27298