It's a laywers' club so exclusive that most lawyers and judges have never heard of it.

The entry fee: at least one million-dollar verdict.

Membership is limited to 100 nationwide, five more than the current roster of 95. Each year, the members meet at resorts to play and share some trade secrets.

The club is the Inner Circle of Advocates.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its exclusivity, there are detractors who call the members elitists, egotists and braggarts.

"They're a bunch of a----s," said negligence lawyer Melvin Belli, a million-dollar winner many times over, who has never been asked to join.

"Some people just aren't compatible," retorts J. B. Spence of Miami, one of the founders. "There are some people, you know, who you wouldn't take fishing with you."

Since its beginning in 1972, members have cultivated such an aura of secrecy that even their colleagues and competitors have not heard of the club.

"I've been a judge for 24 years and I don't know anything about them," said Circuit Judge Gene Williams.

"Never heard of them either," said Robert Floyd, a lawyer for 35 years and past president of the 26,000-member Florida Bar.

Members pay dues: $500 to join and $200 a year to remain in the club, according to The National Bar Journal.

"We've got a good thing going here and we're pretty proud of it," said Spence, one of the seven founders.

"What we've got is a king of brain trust. We've got 100 members from all parts of the country.The finest legal minds around. We can plug into any of this talent at any time."

Last summer, members met, golfed, swam and played tennis in Colorado Springs. Once they met in Bermuda; another time it was Hawaii.

Most members not only have won million-dollar judgements but are millionaires themselves.

Inner Circle member Bill Hicks initially thought the club might be elitist. He changed his mind after joining.

"I thought that was the primary motivation," said Hicks. "But I have found this to be just a delightful organization, primarily because of the quality of intellect."

Members share information via a periodic newsletter and regular correspondence.

It is estimated there have been about 230 million-dollar verdicts in the country since the first one in 1962.

Of those, Inner Circle members were involved in more than half.

But not everyone who wins a million-dollar verdict is invited to join -- club membership is by invitation only.

Also, members must have carried at least 50 cases to a final verdict. With this requirement, the club can pick and choose members, excluding those they believe won "fluke" million-dollar verdicts or are otherwise unacceptable. t

No women or blacks are members. Nor are there any Spanish-surnamed members.

That, said Spence, is not deliberate. Blacks, women and Latins who win seven-figure verdicts will be invited to join, he said.

At the annual convention, the seminars are attended by a sea of white, middle-aged faces. The oldest member is 78; the youngest 32.