Order of the Coif

Order of the Coif

The Order of the Coif is an honor society for United States law school graduates. A student at an American law school who earns a Juris Doctor degree and graduates in the top 10 percent of his or her class is eligible for membership if the student's law school has a chapter of the Order.



According to the organization's constitution, "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 honoring those who as lawyers, judges and teachers attained high distinction for their scholarly or professional accomplishments."[1]

The exact induction process varies by law school, but students are generally notified of their membership after the final class ranks at their schools are announced. A new member receives a certificate of membership, a badge of membership for wear during academic ceremonies, a Coif key, and in some cases an actual coif or a representation of one.

The basic requirement for membership is ranking in the top 10% of a member school's graduating class. If a member law school graduates fewer than 30 students, it may induct its top three students. A school can decide not to allow an otherwise eligible student to receive the honor, and may impose additional requirements for membership beyond the organization's national requirement of being in the top 10% of the class.[2]

Each member school may also induct a faculty member and one honorary member each year.[3] The national organization's executive committee may also elect a limited number of honorary members.[4] Those chosen for honorary membership are usually United States Supreme Court justices and other preeminent members of the legal profession.[5]

Notable members


As of 2011, 81 of 199 United States law schools accredited by the American Bar Association to award the J.D. degree had Order of the Coif chapters. [6] [7] In that year, all but five of the top fifty law schools, as ranked by U.S. News, were member schools. [8] [9] The others, Boston University School of Law, Columbia Law School, Harvard Law School, George Mason University School of Law, and Notre Dame Law School, have never applied for a chapter.[citation needed] Notre Dame and Columbia are ineligible because they do not rank the top 10% of their graduating class by grade point average,[citation needed] which the order's constitution requires.

For a law school to establish a chapter, the school must apply for a charter. If the organization's executive committee determines, after considering the law school's written submissions and its own investigation (which may include an examination of the school by a visitation team), that the applicant merits a chapter, it will submit the application for a vote by the existing chapters. A charter for a new chapter requires approval by 80% of the existing chapters.[10]

Criteria considered when a law school applies for a chapter of the Order include: (1) American Bar Association and Association of American Law Schools approval; (2) at least ten years of existence as a law school; (3) affiliation with a university; (4) if a part-time J.D. program exists, the part-time program must offer students and faculty affiliated with the part-time program the same scholarship opportunities as all other students and faculty; (5) a stimulating intellectual environment for the study of law; (6) commitment of the university and law school administration to quality legal education; (7) faculty scholarship and institutional support for same; (8) a diverse educational program; (9) a diverse student body with strong academic credentials; (10) a law library that will support and encourage research activity; and (11) appropriate physical facilities.[11]

A law school can also be removed from the Order if a two-thirds majority of member schools agrees to bring the matter to a vote and a four-fifths majority (excluding the school in question) then votes to remove the school.

The University of Illinois established the first Order of the Coif chapter in 1902. [12]


  • Michael Herz, Coif Comes to Cardozo, Cardozo Life (Spring 1999) (includes information on the order's history).
  • Order of the Coif, Constitution (2003) [cited herein as Constitution]. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  • Frank R. Strong, Order of the Coif: English Antecedents and American Adaptation, 63 A.B.A. J. 1725, 1726 (1977).

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • 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.… …   Law dictionary

  • Order of the Coif — An honorary fraternity of lawyers, membership being attained on the basis of exceptional work and standing as a student in a college of law …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • Coif, Order of the — n. An honor society for law students in the top 10% of their class. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. 2008 …   Law dictionary

  • Coif — For coiffure , see Hairstyle. Detail of Edward VI as a child by Holbein, 1538: he wears a linen coif under a cloth of gold coif and a feathered hat. A coif ( …   Wikipedia

  • coif — /koyf/ A title given to Serjeants at law, who are called serjeants of the coif, from the coif they wear on their heads. The use of this coif at first was to cover the clerical tonsure, many of the practicing serjeants being clergymen who had… …   Black's law dictionary

  • coif — /koyf/ A title given to Serjeants at law, who are called serjeants of the coif, from the coif they wear on their heads. The use of this coif at first was to cover the clerical tonsure, many of the practicing serjeants being clergymen who had… …   Black's law dictionary

  • coif — A cap worn by sergeants at law in the English courts. See Order of the Coif …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • order — A mandate; precept; command or direction authoritatively given; rule or regulation. Brady v. Interstate Commerce Commission, D.C.W.Va., 43 F.2d 847, 850. Direction of a court or judge made or entered in writing, and not included in a judgment,… …   Black's law dictionary

  • coif — I. noun Etymology: Middle English coife, from Anglo French, from Late Latin cofea Date: 14th century 1. a close fitting cap: as a. a hoodlike cap worn under a veil by nuns b. a protective usually metal skullcap formerly worn under a hood of mail… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Law school in the United States — In the United States, a law school is an institution where students obtain a professional education in law. A law student must hold an undergraduate degree in any field. In most cases the degree awarded by U.S. law schools is the Juris Doctor ,… …   Wikipedia