State Bar Association

State Bar Association in the United States

A professional organization of lawyers established at the state level. State bar associations were an outgrowth of organizations initiated at the local level. Many local organizations such as those in New York City and Chicago were founded in the late 1800s and were primarily designed to eliminate corrupt practices in the courts of those cities. The American Bar Association (ABA) was established soon after, followed closely by associations at the state level. Membership in bar associations at all levels was voluntary at the outset. As a result, membership in the local organizations was limited. A number of attorneys saw the bar associations as essential to improving the legal system and sought to heighten their role. This was made possible by requiring bar association membership under state law. This compulsory membership, akin to a “closed shop” for organized labor, was termed an “integrated” bar. The bar associations of about two-thirds of the states are currently integrated by state statute or by order of state supreme courts. Among the principal concerns of state bar associations are legal education, performance standards for practitioners, and improvement of the legal system.

See Also

American Bar Association (ABA, U.S.) Code of Professional Responsibility (Judicial Personnel issue) Missouri Plan (Judicial Personnel issue).

Analysis and Relevance

State bar associations are interest groups dedicated to promoting the best interests of attorneys. State bar associations are deeply involved in establishing and maintaining professional standards. State bar associations play a role in setting law school admission standards and conducting bar examinations at the conclusion of law school programs. State bar associations also make inquiries into the general fitness of prospective lawyers prior to their admission to the bar. They also investigate grievances filed against attorneys for alleged conduct incompatible with established standards of professional responsibility. State bar associations also represent the state’s legal profession in the political arena. Most bar association political activities focus on judicial selection and organizational issues related to the courts. State bar associations, for example, have been at the forefront of efforts to establish “merit” selection of judges. This approach gives the bar the greatest influence in choosing judges for a state’s courts. Failing that, the state bar conducts membership “polls” on candidates for judicial office in election states and publicizes the results. State governors routinely consult with state bar associations prior to making judicial appointments. Bar associations are also active in promoting proposals for court restructuring. Support is most likely where changes elevate professionalism within the courts. In addition, bar associations strongly support legislation that expands legal assistance programs for indigents. Such programs not only further the administration of justice but also directly benefit lawyers.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of State Bar Association from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

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

Federal Primary Materials

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Federal primary materials about State Bar Association by content types:

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Federal Case Law and Court Materials

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Executive Materials

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State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to State 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 State Bar Association. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about State 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 State Bar Association when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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