Maritime Law Association of the United States

Maritime Law Association of the United States

Logo of the Maritime Law Association of the United States

The Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLAUS), established in 1899, is a national professional organization of lawyers who practice in maritime or admiralty law.

The MLAUS serves maritime lawyers by providing a forum to discuss news and issues in the practice, as a source of opinion and information to the public, and as a representative to the international legal community. Accomplished members may earn the designation of "Proctor of Admiralty."

The Maritime Law Association seeks appropriate reforms and uniform interpretation in maritime law, which is the body of law that governs legal controversies and criminal offenses on the sea. People most affected by maritime law include sailors, seamen, passengers, longshoremen and harbor workers, ship owners, and people involved with the shipping industry, including those who work in industries that ship products by sea. Maritime lawyers often represent those who have been injured at sea often in legal actions against their employers for money damages. 

The MLA also represents the United States abroad in the Comité Maritime International (CMI), an international committee that encourages cooperation among nations on maritime law.


History of the Maritime Law Association

The Maritime Law Association was founded in 1899, three years after the formation of the International Maritime Committee, better known as the Comité Maritime International (CMI). The MLA became a constituent member of the CMI, representing maritime lawyers in the United States to the international community.

As a professional organization, the MLA has had a hand in several significant developments in maritime law. Legislation passed that was encouraged or drafted by the MLA include:

  • the Maritime Liens Acts of 1910 and 1920;
  • the Death on the High Seas Act of 1920;
  • the Jones Act of 1920;
  • the Public Vessels Act of 1925;
  • the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act of 1927;
  • the 1966 merger of the General Admiralty Rules with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure;
  • the 1972 International Collision Regulations; and
  • the statute of limitations changes for personal injury in 1980.

The Maritime Law Association was officially incorporated in 1993.


Membership in the MLA

Although the MLA has nine classes of membership, most members fall into two categories: Associate Lawyer and Proctor in Admiralty. Other membership classifications include Life, Non-Lawyer, Judicial and Law Student.

The term "Proctor in Admiralty" dates back at least to English admiralty courts in the 1200's. An attorney may join the MLA as an Associate Lawyer. After four years, the associate member may seek to become designated as a Proctor in Admiralty.

The transition requires the support of two proctors who do not practice with the applicant must support the associate. A committee of experienced proctors judges whether the applicant has sufficient experience and education. Those approved by the committee are then passed on for consideration by the Board of Directors.

Members may also post news regarding their practice or important cases they are working on on the association's website.


Benefits of Membership in MLA

For attorneys that practice maritime and admiralty law, there are many benefits to joining MLA. The MLA holds meetings twice a year, which association members may attend. Members may also attend the meetings held every two years where they are lectures, seminars and panel discussions on a variety of marine law topics. The biannual meetings have seminars and sessions are accredited in the various states for continuing legal education (CLE) credits.

Additionally, all members are listed in the organization's public database on the website. When a member of the public is looking for a maritime lawyer, he or she can search the database and see what lawyers have joined, in addition to which lawyers have been designated as Proctors in Admiralty.

The MLA will hold a joint fall meeting with the Pacific Admiralty Seminar on October 18-21, 2017, at the Silverado Resort in Napa, California. The MLA Spring 2017 Meetings and Dinner was held on May 3 - 5, 2017.


Committees of the MLA

Members of the organization are encouraged to take on leadership roles by joining various committees including:

  • Arbitration and ADR
  • Carriage of Goods
  • Cruise Lines and Passenger Ships
  • Fisheries
  • Inland Waters and Towing
  • International Organizations, Conventions, and Standards
  • Marine Ecology and Maritime Criminal Law
  • Marine Financing
  • Marine Insurance and General Average
  • Marine Torts and Casualties
  • Offshore Industries
  • Practice and Procedure
  • Recreational Boating
  • Regulation of Vessel Operations, Safety, Security and Navigation
  • Salvage
  • Stevedores, Marine Terminals, and Vessel Services
  • Young Lawyers

This article was last updated on Friday, May 12, 2017.