What Does it Mean to Be a Member of the American Bar Association?

The American Bar Association is a voluntary professional organization comprised of lawyers and law students. While its annual dues can be steep, this membership affords them numerous opportunities to stay abreast of legal trends while networking with peers. Publications by the ABA include its monthly Journal, books and specialized reports; in addition, it hosts its national convention annually. Furthermore, its influence extends well beyond legal matters themselves: It plays a critical role in proposing laws, reforming court systems, accrediting law schools and evaluating individuals nominated by Presidents before becoming federal judges.

Since 1878, the American Bar Association (ABA) has been committed to upholding ethical and legal standards among its membership of lawyers as well as advocating justice. Members include attorneys licensed to practice in any US jurisdiction or territory as well as nonpracticing lawyers such as government officials who work within legal profession. Nonlawyer judges, legal assistants, paralegals and law school teachers may join as associate members while lawyers practicing abroad may join as international associates.

The American Bar Association is home to numerous committees dedicated to various areas of law, such as family law; international law; criminal and civil rights law; corporate, environmental and labor law; judicial nominations and public interest law. As social change swept across America during the 1960s and 70s, new issues such as feminist movements, equal pay for female attorneys against male lawyers as well as laws to address workplace safety and environmental protection became more politicized, leading to further politicization of its role shaping law which it still struggles with today.

Although the ABA doesn’t possess formal authority to discipline members who violate ethical rules, its influence extends far into state bars that do. As it has such an enormous influence over legal profession, it is vital that it speak with one voice and uphold its integrity.

The American Bar Association’s role in the legal community is integral to democracy, so its failure is another blow against it. Thankfully, many dedicated officers and members are working to revive it – they deserve our support as this work progresses. Now is the time for leadership within the ABA as opposed to membership pacification; now is also time for us to stand alongside them as they stand up for their principles.

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