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American Bar Association (ABA)

About the ABA


  • Founded: 1878

Mission and History

The American Bar Association (ABA) is the largest voluntary organization of lawyers and law students in the United States and the world. The professional organization was founded on August 21, 1878, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., by 100 lawyers from 21 states. At that meeting, the purpose of the organization was defined as "the advancement of the science of jurisprudence, the promotion of the administration of justice, and a uniformity of legislation throughout this country."

Today, the ABA is known for providing a wide range of services to its members, setting academic standards for law schools, and developing model ethical rules for the legal profession.

The ABA created and maintains the Model Code of Professional Responsibility. Several versions of the Model Code of Professional Responsibility have been adopted by 49 states and the District of Columbia. Although the State of California, for example, did not adopt the model rules, several sections of the California Rules of Professional Conduct closely follow the ABA version.

To encourage uniformity of statutes and judicial decisions to promote the fair administration of justice, the ABA created the American Law Institute (ALI) and the Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.





Judy Perry Martinez
New Orleans, LA
William Robert Bay
Chair, House of Delegates
St. Louis, MO
Patricia Lee Refo
Phoenix, AZ
Mary L. Smith

Chicago, IL
Michelle A Behnke
Madison, WI
Kevin Lee Shepherd
Treasurer Elect
Baltimore, MD
Robert M Carlson
Immediate Past President
Butte, MT
Jack L. Rives

Executive Director
Chicago, IL

ABA Member Groups and Sections

The ABA has over 35 member groups dedicated to specific areas of the law and policy issues. These include:

  • Criminal Justice - The ABA Criminal Justice Section (CJS) was founded in 1920. The Criminal Justice Section has more than 20,000 members including criminal defense lawyers in private practice, state and federal public defenders, prosecutors, appellate and trial judges, law professors, correctional and law enforcement personnel, law students, and other criminal justice professionals.
  • Affordable Housing & Community Development Law
  • Air & Space Law
  • Antitrust Law
  • Business Law
  • Civil Rights & Social Justice
  • Communications Law
  • Construction Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Entertainment & Sports Industries
  • Environment, Energy, & Resources
  • Family Law
  • Franchising
  • Government & Public Sector Lawyers
  • Health Law
  • Infrastructure & Regulated Industries Section
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Judicial Division
  • Labor & Employment Law
  • Law Practice
  • Law Student Division
  • Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar
  • Litigation
  • Public Contract Law
  • Real Property, Trust, & Estate Law
  • Senior Lawyers Division
  • State & Local Government Law
  • Taxation
  • Tort Trial, & Insurance Practice
  • Young Lawyers Division

Contact the ABA

American Bar Association (ABA)
321 North Clark Street
Chicago, 60654
Toll-Free: (800) 285-2221

More About the ABA

Membership in the ABA

As a voluntary organization, attorneys are not required to join the American Bar Association. In fact, most attorneys do not belong to the ABA. 

One of the main focuses of the ABA is to provide resources to help and nourish members to become better lawyers. Each year, the ABA creates more than 3,200 hours of CLE and hosts 800 face to face events around the World. The benefits of becoming a member of the ABA include:

  • Subscriptions to the monthly ABA Journal and weekly eJournal;
  • Access to the Career Center and online job board;
  • Access to Practice Management documents and other resources;
  • ABA CLE courses including the Premier Speaker Series who allows the attorney to earn up to 18 hours of free CLE credits;
  • Access to programs concentrated in your practice area through sections, divisions, and forums;
  • Advocacy and pro bono opportunities such as the Military Pro Bono Project;
  • Opportunities for authorship and speaking engagements; and
  • Discounts on brand-named products and services, member-only pricing at the ABA Webstore and through ABA Advantage.

ABA members are encouraged to join sections that range in size from 3,500 members to more than 50,000. The ABA sections are divided according to specific areas of the law and focused on topics such as ethics and professional responsibility, judicial selection, and lawyer referral services.

Additionally, ABA members can join various committees concerned with topics such as public interest law, elder law, or malpractice.

The ABA has published more than 1,000 books, magazines, and journals. With over 1,000 online forums, the ABA provides members important networking opportunities.

ABA publications include Student Lawyer magazine, numerous books authored by lawyers, periodicals, journals and newsletters pertaining to the latest legal topics and information. Each month members of the ABA receive the ABA Journal which is also available online.

In 2017, the ABA had approximately 194,000 members who paid dues to the organization. That number means that in 2017, less than 15% of all attorneys in the United States were members of the ABA. The membership levels have dropped over the last 40 years. In 1979, about 50% of all attorneys were members of the ABA.

The decrease in membership has also lead to a decrease in revenue. In 2020, the ABA Board of Governors approved a planned annual general operating budget of $82 million which was significantly lower than in previous years. In 2014, for example, the general operations budget was $116 million.

Types of Memberships

Membership in the ABA is available to lawyers, law students, and others interested in the law and the legal profession. If you would like to become a member of the American Bar Association you can sign up on the ABA Membership page. ABA members can renew at myABA.

Types of membership in the American Bar Association (ABA) include:

  • Lawyers - For lawyers currently practicing in the United States, the ABA Lawyer Membership gives licensed legal professionals access to current events and information, career resources, and networking opportunities with other legal professionals.
  • Law Students - Law students can join the ABA today to start building their professional network. The ABA Law Student Membership offers law students access to affordable special interest groups with webinars, networking events, discounts on study aids, bar review courses, valuable health insurance options and numerous publications to help foster legal educations. Students will also benefit from the intrinsic value of membership, recognized by colleagues. This can be particularly helpful when applying for internships, fellowships, clerkships, and public service volunteer opportunities.
  • Student Associate - The ABA Student Associate Membership provides an opportunity for persons who are ineligible to be Lawyer or Law Student access to membership benefits. This includes persons enrolled in college or university level post-secondary educational studies and those who have an interest in the work of the American Bar Association.
  • ABA Associate Membership - Membership in the American Bar Association is open to all enthusiasts to the promotion of the law. With an ABA Associate Membership, a person can join and have access to member benefits, if they are a lawyer licensed outside the U.S., a legal educator, a paralegal or a legal assistant, a law office administrator, a law librarian, a consultant, or someone seeking access to the wealth of ABA benefits to develop a competitive advantage in a law-related field.

ABA's Legal Career Central

Another benefit of joining the American Bar Association is access to the features in the ABA's Legal Career Center. The center makes recruiting top attorneys for your organization easy. The email feature gives law firms and other organizations the ability to reach passive job seekers who are not actively looking for a new career.

Features of the ABA’s Legal Career Central include the ability to:

  • post open jobs where the most qualified candidates will find and apply to them on any device
  • email your jobs directly to ABA’s members and job seekers via our exclusive jobs email
  • search the resume database containing more than 9,700 resumes and contact qualified candidates proactively

The American Bar Association’s Legal Career Central gives the user the ability to reach the most coveted group of candidates in one place.

ABA Features and Publications

  • ABA Journal - The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, covering the people, trends, and finances of the legal profession. The ABA Journal website is updated daily with breaking legal news. The ABA Journal magazine is read by half the nation's 1.1 million lawyers.
  • ABA Consumers' Guide to Legal Help - Provided as a public service by the American Bar Association's Division for Legal Services findlegalhelp.org provides information on finding a lawyer, hiring a lawyer, paying a lawyer, and finding free help. The committee provides support and assistance to local public service lawyer referral programs that provide information on appropriate, quality legal services to the public. Also, the ABA Lawyer Referral and Information Service offers a number of resources for local bar leaders and lawyer referral programs.
  • ABA TECHSHOW - The ABA TECHSHOW brings lawyers and technology together each year. The conference includes seminars and CLE courses on using the iPad, effectively utilizing practice management software, technology solutions for solo and small firm attorneys, how to use the cloud and social media and the best apps for attorneys. Attendees also get access to the EXPO Hall where legal technology vendors demonstrate their products and services. The ABA TECHSHOW 2016 will by on March 17-19, 2016, at the Chicago Hilton. It will celebrate the 30th anniversary of TECHSHOW.
  • ABA on Wikipedia - Learn more about the American Bar Association including the history of the ABA and recent criticisms.

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