- American Bar Association
American Bar Association
Logo of the American Bar Association
Formation August 21, 1878 Type Legal Society Headquarters Chicago, Illinois Location United States President Stephen N. Zack Key people Jack L. Rives, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Website americanbar.org
The American Bar Association (ABA), founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation of model ethical codes related to the legal profession. The ABA has 410,000 members. Its national headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois; it also maintains a significant branch office in Washington, D.C.
The ABA was founded on August 21, 1878, in Saratoga Springs, New York, by 100 lawyers from 21 states. According to the ABA website,
- "The legal profession as we know it today barely existed at that time. Lawyers were generally sole practitioners who trained under a system of apprenticeship. There was no national code of ethics; there was no national organization to serve as a forum for discussion of the increasingly intricate issues involved in legal practice."
The purpose of the original organization, as set forth in is first constitution, was "the advancement of the science of jurisprudence, the promotion of the administration of justice and a uniformity of legislation throughout the country...."
The ABA mission, as stated in its 2008 mission statement, is "To serve equally our members, our profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession." The goals and objectives are:
- Goal 1: Serve our members. (Objective: Provide benefits, programs and services which promote members’ professional growth and quality of life.)
- Goal 2: Improve our profession. (Objectives: 1) Promote the highest quality legal education; 2) Promote competence, ethical conduct and professionalism; 3) Promote pro bono and public service by the legal profession.)
- Goal 3: Eliminate bias and enhance diversity. (Objectives: 1) Promote full and equal participation in the association, our profession, and the justice system by all persons; 2) Eliminate bias in the legal profession and the justice system.)
- Goal 4: Advance the rule of law. (Objectives: 1) Increase public understanding of and respect for the rule of law, the legal process, and the role of the legal profession at home and throughout the world; 2) Hold governments accountable under law; 3) Work for just laws, including human rights, and a fair legal process; 4)Assure meaningful access to justice for all persons; and 5) Preserve the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary.)
Leadership and governance
The ABA is governed by the Office of the President; the House of Delegates, which acts as the organization's primary body for adopting new policies and recommendations as part of the association's official position; and the Board of Governors.
In 2010, Jack L. Rives, formerly the TJAG (The Judge Advocate General of the Air force), was appointed Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer.
Model ethical standards for lawyers
An important role of the ABA is its creation and maintenance of a code of ethical standards for lawyers. The Model Code of Professional Responsibility (1969) and/or the newer Model Rules of Professional Conduct (1983) have been adopted in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The exception is the State Bar of California; however, a few sections of the California Rules of Professional Conduct were clearly drawn from the ABA models.
Accreditation of law schools
According to the ABA, it "provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public. The Mission of the American Bar Association is to be the national representative of the legal profession, serving the public and the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the law." Law schools which meet ABA standards are listed as "approved".
Legal education in the United States Stages Pre-law
Master of Laws
Doctor of Laws
Continuing legal education
Organizations Law School Admission Council
American Bar Association
Practising Law Institute
ABA accreditation is important not only because it affects the recognition of the law schools involved, but it also affects a graduate's ability to practice law in a particular state. Specifically, in most U.S. jurisdictions, graduation from an ABA-accredited law school is expressly stated as a prerequisite towards being allowed to sit for that state's bar exam, and even for existing lawyers to be admitted to the bar of another state upon motion. Even states which recognize unaccredited schools within their borders will generally not recognize such schools from other jurisdictions for purposes of bar admission.
For law students attending ABA-accredited schools, memberships are available at reduced rates. Students attending non-ABA accredited law schools are permitted to join the ABA as associate members.
In June 2009, the ABA Journal reported that the ABA had been working "for months" to change its accreditation standard, where accreditation will be the result of what kind of lawyer an ABA law school produces as opposed to "input" measures such as faculty size, budget and physical plant.
More recently, a non-profit Tennessee organization called Law School Transparency has called upon the ABA to provide meaningful statistics regarding the employment prospects and salary information of graduates of ABA accredited institutions.[not specific enough to verify] On October 17, 2011, the ABA announced it was considering penalties, including loss of accreditation for schools that misreported their graduates employment data.
Antitrust consent decree and contempt fine
In 1995 the United States Department of Justice accused the ABA of violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act in its law school accreditation proceedings. The case was resolved with a consent decree. In 2006, the ABA acknowledged that it violated the consent decree and paid DOJ a $185,000 fine.
Continuing legal education
The American Bar Association Center for Continuing Legal Education (ABA-CLE) serves as the central CLE resource for the ABA by providing quality programs and products of national scope. ABA-CLE is overseen by the ABA Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education and works closely with experts from the ABA Sections and the profession at large in developing programs and products in a variety of delivery formats. In addition to its own distribution, the ABA-CLE is also delivered via private, non-profit CLE organizations, such as Practising Law Institute and for-profit organizations, such as West LegalEdCenter.
The Association publishes a monthly general magazine circulated to all members, the ABA Journal (since 1984, formerly American Bar Association Journal, 1915-1983), now also online.
ABA members may also join subject-specific "sections", and each section publishes a variety of newsletters and magazines for its members (such as Law Practice Magazine published by the Law Practice Management Section and GPSolo Magazine published by the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division). The first such journal was the Annual Bulletin of the Comparative Law Bureau, the first comparative law journal in the U.S. (1908-1914). The sections also hold their own meetings.
Each section will normally have a publication program that includes (1) books, usually oriented toward practitioners; (2) scholarly journals, such as Administrative Law Review (published by the ABA Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice and The American University Washington College of Law) and The International Lawyer (published by the ABA Section of International Law and SMU Dedman School of Law); (3) newsletters, such as The International Law News (published by the ABA Section of International Law); (4) e-publications, such as a monthly message from the section chair, or updates on substantive law developments; and (5) committee publications, such as a committee newsletter published by one of the substantive law committees.
Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law
The ABA’s Commission on the Mentally Disabled was established in 1973 to respond to the advocacy needs of persons with mental disabilities. After the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the ABA broadened the Commission’s mission to serve all persons with disabilities and changed its name to the Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law (CMPDL). The Commission carries out an array of projects and activities addressing disability-related public policy, disability law, and the professional needs of lawyers and law students with disabilities. Its mission is "to promote the ABA's commitment to justice and the rule of law for persons with mental, physical, and sensory disabilities and to promote their full and equal participation in the legal profession." The Commission consists of 15 members appointed by the ABA President-elect on an annual basis. It meets bi-annually at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
At the 2010 annual meeting the ABA passed a formal resolution urging every state and territory in the union to permit same-sex marriages.
Rating of judicial nominees
For decades, the ABA has participated in the federal judicial nomination process by vetting nominees and giving them a rating ranging from "not qualified" to "well qualified." According to a compendium of those ratings, the ABA's Committee on the Federal Judiciary began rating Supreme Court nominees in 1956, but: "At various points in its history, the committee altered its ratings categories, making comparisons across time difficult."
The process has been alleged by some (including the Federalist Society) to have a liberal bias. For example, the ABA gave Ronald Reagan's judicial nominees Richard Posner and Frank H. Easterbrook low "qualified/not qualified" ratings; later, the ABA gave Bill Clinton judicial nominees with similar resumes "well qualified" ratings.  Meanwhile, Judges Posner and Easterbrook have gone on to become the two most highly cited judges in the federal appellate judiciary.
In 2001, the George W. Bush administration announced that it would cease cooperating with the ABA in advance of judicial nominations. The ABA continues to rate nominees. In 2005, the ABA gave John Roberts, George W. Bush's nomination for Chief Justice of the United States, a unanimous "well-qualified" rating. It also gave a unanimous "well qualified" rating to appellate court nominee Miguel Estrada, who never took his seat because his nomination was filibustered. However, it gave only a "qualified/not-qualified" rating to nominee Janice Rogers Brown. In 2006, the ABA gave a unanimous "well-qualified" rating to Judge Samuel Alito, Bush's appointee for Sandra Day O'Connor's Associate Justice position.
Position on Signing Statements
In July 2006, an ABA task force under then President Michael S. Greco released a report that concluded that George W. Bush's use of "signing statements" violates the Constitution. These are documents attached by the President to bills he signs, in which he states that he will enforce the new law only to the extent that he feels the law conforms to his interpretation of the Constitution.
The ABA has been criticized for perceived elitism and overrepresentation of white male corporate defense lawyers among its membership; in 1925, African-American lawyers formed the National Bar Association at a time when ABA would not allow them to be members.
Since the 1960s, the ABA has increased the diversity of its membership. Its membership has grown from less than 11 percent of all American lawyers to roughly 50 percent today[when?]. In recent years, the ABA has also drawn some criticism, mainly from the conservative side of the political spectrum, for taking positions on controversial public policy topics such as abortion, and gun control. The ABA's official position in favor of abortion rights led to the formation of a (much smaller) alternative organization for lawyers, the National Lawyers Association. The Federalist Society sponsors a twice-a-year publication called "ABA Watch" that reports on the political activities of the ABA.
There are heated debates over requirements placed on law schools by the ABA. Many states and practitioners believe ABA requirements to be unnecessary, costly, outdated and lacking innovation. Some legal professionals and academics feel these requirements promote the rising cost of tuition. In addition, the ABA has been criticized for requiring law schools to implement affirmative action programs to retain their accreditation.
The more recent collision of attorney layoffs in 2009, the glut of fresh non top-tier law graduates without work, and the continued expansion of law schools have raised questions on whether the ABA has been too lenient in its accreditation process.
The ABA has also faced criticism that it has failed or refused to stop law schools from publishing misleading data about employment and salary prospects. In response, ABA President Lamm told the Newark Star-Ledger that "Law students ought to look at the numbers and envision how their future might be before going to law school, not after."
Recent ABA presidents
- 2000-2001: Martha Barnett
- 2002-2003: Alfred P. Carlton, Jr.
- 2003-2004: Dennis W. Archer (first African-American president)
- 2004-2005: Robert J. Grey, Jr.
- 2005-2006: Michael S. Greco (first foreign-born president)
- 2006-2007: Karen J. Mathis
- 2007-2008: William H. Neukom
- 2008-2009: H. Thomas Wells, Jr.
- 2009-2010: Carolyn B. Lamm
- 2010-2011: Stephen N. Zack (first Hispanic American president)
Each year in August, the ABA holds an annual meeting in different cities that consists of speeches, CLE classes, gatherings, and the ABA EXPO.
- Attorney at law (United States)
- ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct
- ABA digital signature guidelines
- Solosez, an electronic mailing list sponsored and hosted by the American Bar Association
- ^ ABA History; For a historical overview see Matzko, John A., "'The Best Men of the Bar': The Founding of the American Bar Association," in The New High Priests: Lawyers in Post-Civil War America, Gerard W. Gawalt (ed.), (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984), pp. 75-96.
- ^ 2008 mission statement
- ^ ABA Website http://www.abanet.org/about/; retrieval date 2008.03.19.
- ^ "ABA-Approved Law Schools by Year". ABA website. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/aba_approved_law_schools/by_year_approved.html. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
- ^ National Conference of Bar Examiners. Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements
- ^ See, e.g., Supreme Court Rule 7 (Tennessee), Rules Regarding Admission to Practice Law (California).
- ^ ABA Website http://www.abanet.org/join/; retrieval date 2008.04.27.
- ^ http://www.abajournal.com/news/review_of_accreditation_standards_likely_to_bring_sea_change_to_how_law_sch/
- ^ http://www.lawschooltransparency.com
- ^ http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202472017861&Law_schools_give_cold_shoulder_to_transparency_project&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1
- ^ http://www.abajournal.com/blawg/law_school_transparency/
- ^ 
- ^ United States v. American Bar Association, U.S. District Court (D.C.), text of decree.
- ^ http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/public/press_releases/1995/0257.htm
- ^ http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/public/press_releases/2006/216804.htm
- ^ Commission Mission
- ^ http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42709.html
- ^ Epstein, Lee et al. The Supreme Court Compendium: Data, Decisions & Developments, page 390 (Fourth Edition, CQ Press, 2007)
- ^ Batkins, Sam (2004-08-12). "ABA Retains Little Objectivity in Nomination Process". Center for Individual Freedom. http://www.cfif.org/htdocs/legislative_issues/federal_issues/hot_issues_in_congress/confirmation_watch/aba_little_objectivity.htm. Retrieved 2006-08-20.
- ^ Lindgren, James (2001-08-06). "Yes, the ABA Rankings Are Biased". Wall Street Journal. http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=95000927. Retrieved 2006-08-21.
- ^ "ABA Ratings of Judicial Nominees". ABA Watch. Federalist Society. July 1996. Archived from the original on 2001-07-10. http://web.archive.org/web/20010710135604/http://www.fed-soc.org/abaw8969.htm. Retrieved 2006-08-20.
- ^ Choi, Stephen; Gulati, Mitu (2003). "Who Would Win a Tournament of Judges (Draft)". Boalt Working Papers in Public Law (University of California) (19): 96. http://repositories.cdlib.org/boaltwp/19/. Retrieved 2006-08-20.
- ^ "Ratings of Article III Judicial Nominees: 108th Congress" (Press release). American Bar Association. 2005-01-26. http://www.abanet.org/scfedjud/ratings108.pdf. Retrieved 2006-08-20.
- ^ 
- ^ ABA Policy on Gun Violence - Special Committee On Gun Violence - American Bar Association
- ^ 
- ^ Wall Street Journal Critique of the ABA "blackmailing" law schools into affirmative action
- ^ Academic Mismatch I by Walter E. Williams
- ^ Academic Mismatch II by Walter E. Williams
- ^ http://lawshucks.com/layoff-tracker/
- ^ Penn, Mark (2009-03-02). "Laid-Off Lawyers and Other Professionals". The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123595619998905733.html.
- ^ Koppel, Nathan (2009-03-19). "Best Defense? Seeking a Haven in Law School". The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123741745678277765.html.
- ^ http://abajournal.com/news/up_to_10_new_law_schools_planned_how_many_are_too_many/
- ^ http://www.freep.com/article/20090609/NEWS06/90609004/1008/NEWS/Cooley+will+expand+into+Ave+Maria+site+
- ^ Irate Law School Grads Say They Were Misled About Job Prospects
- ^ Irate Law School Grads Say They Were Misled About Job Prospects
- ^ Carolyn B. Lamm
- ^ Stephen N. Zack
- ^ http://new.abanet.org/annual/pages/default.aspx
- americanbar.org – Official website
- List of all American States Bar Associations
- Federalist Society ABA Watch
- John C Satterfield/American Bar Association Collection (MUM00685)
- International American Bar Associations sites
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