A Brief History of the American Bar Association

As one of the world’s largest voluntary professional associations, the American Bar Association is dedicated to doing what only a national organization of lawyers can: serving its members, improving legal profession standards, eliminating bias and increasing diversity, as well as upholding rule of law. Over its history ABA has accomplished much; yet still continues to shape legal world affairs today.

Over the first decade of this century, the Association worked to increase membership, broaden outreach among local and statewide bar groups, promote civil rights and strengthen relationships with both bench and prosecutor as well as providing support for public defense attorneys representing defendants who were imprisoned.

Charles Evans Hughes led an association effort in New York to prevent the expulsion from office of five New York State Assembly Members who had been elected on a Socialist Party ticket, garnering national headlines and cementing its image as politically engaged organization. It made headlines around the nation and helped overturn earlier perceptions that it had become politically disengaged.

The Association consolidated its national legal services program by working closely with Congress of Industrial Organizations on legislation for a Legal Services Corporation that would create an independent non-profit corporation with bipartisan oversight to promote equal access to justice for low-income Americans. In addition, its program works closely with local bar associations to enhance judicial selection and evaluation as well as small firms and solo practitioners managing their offices.

Highlights of this decade include the American Bar Association’s inaugural national conference for judicial candidates and election officials; continuing legal education program; restructuring of executive committee to enhance role in policy development/management and creation of Lawyer Referral Service (LRIS) to help clients locate qualified attorneys for legal help with legal problems;

In 1961, the American Bar Association formed a committee that would later lead to the creation of the National Judicial College for judicial education purposes. Although independent in 1978, its continued support by ABA remains evident as it remains associated with its activities as an related organization. Bert Early joined its staff as Executive Director until his retirement in 1981.

The American Bar Association establishes the Center for Professional Responsibility as part of their Division for Bar Services to serve as a national leader in developing standards, interpreting them, and producing resources related to legal ethics, professional regulation, and the practice of law. This Center continues its efforts today as part of their organization.

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