The American Bar Association, more commonly known as the ABA, is a national organization for legal professionals. Specifically, its members consist of attorneys and law students.
The ABA was formed in 1878, in Saratoga Springs, New York. Its original purpose was to promote, advance, and provide a uniform view of the law. What started off as an association with only 75 members and a single location, has grown into an association that currently has more than 60,000 members and at least 84 chapters (i.e., locations). Its headquarters has also moved and is now located in Chicago, Illinois.
Although lawyers and law students are not required to become members of the ABA to practice law, those that do become members receive special benefits, such as access to prominent networking events, certain legal-based subscriptions, materials for educational purposes (e.g., CLE courses), and the option to join a committee relating to a specific area of law.
ABA members also receive discounts and offers for various businesses like hotels, car rental services, and tech products.
In addition, the ABA oversees the law school accreditation process, publishes various legal materials, promotes the profession, advances the law itself, and enforces the ethical behavior of attorneys by continuously updating its ethical code. It also offers various pro bono and/or low cost legal services to the public, which are provided by ABA members who volunteer to undertake such work.
Most importantly, the ABA is dedicated to improving the justice system within the United States, which also helps to influence other justice systems throughout the world.
What Does the American Bar Association Actually Do?
Aside from the activities discussed above, the ABA also provides important services to its surrounding communities. Each state has its own ABA chapter (and possibly multiple chapters) to assist the public with law-related concerns.
For instance, an individual can search the website of their local ABA chapter to find information on where to get free legal advice, a list of practicing lawyers in the area and their specialties, and alternative links to resources that provide answers to any questions they have about a specific area of the law.
For example, if the person wishes to purchase a house, but does not know where to begin when it comes to legal issues, the ABA may offer some helpful advice on their website.
In addition to information about particular legal topics, the ABA also has a section where a person can learn about the procedural side of the law, such as the different court systems, the legal profession itself, and the stages of a trial or court case.
What are the Mission and Goals of American Bar Association?
As discussed above, the ABA was originally founded to advance jurisprudence, administer justice, and create uniform legislation. While these original tenets are still a large part of their ultimate goal, they have since added several others to their mission in order to continuously improve the justice system.
Some of these goals include:
- Advocating for full and equal protection in the legal profession for women and minorities;
- Providing an authority to direct and steer laws as society changes;
- Ensuring that all attorneys (including non-members) exhibit the highest standard of professionalism, ethical behavior, and competence;
- Preserving the idea that legal professionals are meant to serve the public; and
- Providing access to legal representation for all people, regardless of economic or social standing.
What Else Does the American Bar Association Do for Non-Attorneys?
The ABA has created several programs whose purpose is to promote and ensure equality throughout the justice system. For example, it is often said that the court does not treat all persons in the same way and that the law tends to apply differently based on race, gender, and disability.
Thus, in response to this concern, the ABA created a Diversity and Inclusion Center to oversee these issues. This Center works to eliminate bias and to enhance diversity within the legal profession as well as the justice system.
In addition, the ABA manages several projects and/or services that primarily focus on legal representation for children, victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and immigrants and refugees.
The ABA also has a Center for Human Rights, whose mission is to hold other governments accountable for abusive treatment of citizens and other basic human rights violations.
Finally, the ABA works closely with the Clooney Foundation for Justice. Both organizations aim to ensure fairness in various courts and justice systems throughout the entire world.
What is the Role of The American Bar Association Today?
While the ABA still strives to uphold their mission and various goals relating to the legal profession and the justice system, its main focus has shifted to setting the academic standards for legal education and enforcing the model rules of professional conduct.
In addition, since one of its goals is to help steer and update the laws, the ABA has had to grapple with many changes to encompass the advancements in technology. This includes considering relevant ethical issues, which are rapidly evolving due to social media.
The ABA has also faced many new challenges due to Covid-19. Strictly in relation to the legal field and what the ABA oversees, the pandemic has upset law school graduations, classes, bar exams, law school applications, court appearances, court closures, and the list goes on and on.
For instance, in light of the pandemic, the ABA has had to weigh-in on whether or not law students should take the bar exam online. Although they are not in favor of allowing students to do so, they have permitted state bar systems to administer the bar online. However, those states that are choosing to give the exam online must have their tests reviewed by the ABA or one of its chapters before they can proceed.
Is the American Bar Association a Legal Resource for Me?
Although only lawyers and law students may join the ABA, its website can still be a useful tool for anyone who needs help with particular legal issues. As discussed above, you should visit the ABA’s website if you are searching for information on local attorneys, free legal services, pro bono lawyers, general legal procedures, and resources for specific areas of the law or generic legal processes (e.g., buying a house).
Additionally, if you need help finding a lawyer, there are many other ways to look for one aside from the ABA. You can visit your state or local bar’s website, conduct a general search on the Internet, use a private referral service, and ask family or friends.
LegalMatch is also a great resource if you are trying to retain a lawyer. Our software connects users with attorneys who are both qualified and want to take the case. Simply sign-up for free through our website, present some of the case details using our form, and hit submit. Shortly after submitting your request, an attorney will contact you directly and from there you can decide whether you want to hire them or continue your search.