American Bar Association

American Bar Association in the United States

A voluntary association of lawyers in the United States. The American Bar Association (ABA) was founded in 1878 to improve the legal profession. The initial concern of the ABA was the absence of quality controls on legal education and admission to the profession. The ABA took the lead in tightening accreditation standards for law schools. Demonstration of proficiency by passing a bar examination as a requirement for entry to the profession was also an area where the ABA was active. Its activities eventually were extended beyond professional quality and development to include fostering greater public understanding of the legal system. The main governing body of the ABA is the House of Delegates, but the bulk of the preliminary work of the organization is done through an extensive network of highly specialized sections, divisions, task forces and standing committees. The ABA puts out a number of publications including the American Bar Association Journal (monthly) and Washington Summary (a weekly newsletter). A variety of affiliated organizations, such as the American Bar Foundation, provide research and publications helpful to the profession. (1)

Analysis and Relevance

The American Bar Association is the largest professional association, with membership in excess of 330,000. The ABA works closely with state bar associations in pursuing objectives related to professional competence and responsibility. As the national representative of the profession, the ABA has been effective in its support of proposals aimed at improving the American justice system. For example, it has sought or supported reforms that would improve the provisions of child welfare services and enhance delivery of legal services, especially to those unable to afford it. In general, the ABA is sensitive to procedural issues associated with government operations or policies. In addition, the ABA sets and enforces performance standards for the profession. Contained in the Code of Professional Responsibility, which was developed under the auspices of the ABA, are canons of professional conduct and ethics to which all lawyers are expected to subscribe. Failure to do so can bring discipline through state bar associations. The ABA also plays a critical role in the selection process for federal judges. A standing committee of the ABA formally examines each nominee for all federal courts and offers its evaluation to the Senate prior to its discharge of the advice and consent function. The ABA is also occasionally consulted about the qualifications of potential nominees prior to their nomination by the president. (2)


American Bar Association (ABA), national organization of the legal profession, founded in 1878. The activities of the association include maintenance of high ethical standards for the profession. The most current version of these standards, The Model Rules of Professional Conduct, was adopted in 1983. The association also accredits law schools under the authority of state high courts and the United States Department of Education, and according to standards developed by the association. Other association activities include efforts to increase access to legal services to all people, through support of lawyer-donated services and legal assistance programs, and providing consultation to emerging countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Policies of the association are determined by a house of delegates representing the legal profession and administered by a board of governors. Headquarters is in Chicago and Washington, D.C. (3)

Legal Materials

The American Bar Association is the principal national association of attorneys. TheABA Web site posts a lot of information about the ABA, its programs and its publications.

To see if the ABA sells a particular publication, or to buy one, visit the ABA Web Store. To get new reports, etc., by the ABA, search the online Newsroom, especially the Press Releases page. If they mention it, they’ll probably tell you where to get it.

If what you want isn’t on the ABA website, try Westlaw, Lexis or Hein Online which has most ABA journals. Note: Reports of the ABA Business Law Section are often published in the Business Lawyer, a law review edited at the University of Maryland law school.

Some ABA books are available through Bloomberg Law and the Lexis Digital Library.

If that doesn’t work, try other sources readily available in your area (e.g., your local county law library) and check Worldcat.

If that doesn’t work either, getting ABA publications can be a drag. Try calling (a) the ABA Service Center to order it (1-800-285-2221); (b) the Northwestern University Law School Library to borrow it (312-503-0316; the ABA told me Northwestern has the best collection); or (c) the ABA (312-988-5000) to speak with someone who worked on it.

Ethics Opinions: For information on ABA Ethics opinions, see “Legal Ethics.”


Notes and References

  1. Definition of American Bar Association from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California
  2. Id.
  3. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

See Also






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *