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

American Bar Association: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about American Bar Association. This part provides references, in relation to American Bar Association, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about American Bar Association by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about American Bar Association and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about American Bar Association or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to American Bar Association and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting American Bar Association. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about American Bar Association should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to American Bar Association when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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