Order of the Coif

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Order of the Coif

An unincorporated national scholastic honor society in law. Its purpose is to foster excellence in legal scholarship and to recognize those who have attained high grades in law school or who have distinguished themselves in the teaching of law. There are more than sixty chapters located in law schools throughout the country.

The honor society is named after the English Order of the Coif, the most ancient and one of the most honored institutions of the Common Law. The coif was a close-fitting cap of white linen that covered the ears and was tied with strings under the chin, like a baby's bonnet. It originated in the twelfth century as a head covering for men and became part of the ecclesiastic and legal headgear, lasting until the sixteenth century. For a long period of time, English judges were selected only from the order.

The Order of the Coif honor society was formed in 1912 as a national organization. The national constitution sets requirements for election to membership and criteria for the creation of chapters at law schools. The order is a federated organization with authority in local matters vested in each chapter. Each chapter has its officers, and the national organization has an executive committee composed of three officers and three other members. Officers are elected every three years.

Law students who are graduating seniors are eligible for election to the Order of the Coif if they have completed 75 percent of their law studies in graded courses and their grade record ranks them in the top 10 percent of all graduating seniors of the chapter's school. A chapter may also elect members of the law school faculty if the chapter believes professors have exhibited qualities of scholarship consistent with the objectives of the order.

A chapter may each year elect to honorary membership one member of the legal profession who is recognized for his or her scholarship. Every three years the national executive committee may elect up to five honorary members who have attained national distinction for their contributions to the legal system.

In addition, every three years the Order of the Coif recognizes legal scholarship by conferring one or more awards on the author or authors of published legal works. The national executive committee also is empowered to establish other awards for the purpose of recognizing preeminent legal scholarship and leadership among law students, law professors, judges, and practitioners.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Order of the Coif

an honorary scholastic society in the USA. The purpose of The Order 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 honouring those who as lawyers, judges and teachers attained high distinction for their scholarly or professional accomplishments.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
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