1. The Evolution of the American Bar Association
2. The Goals of the ABA
3. The ABA Today

The Evolution of the American Bar Association

The American Bar Association (ABA) was founded on August 21, 1878, in Saratoga Springs, New York, by 100 lawyers from 21 states. 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.

At that time, no national code of ethics existed, nor did a national organization to serve as a forum for discussion of the increasingly intricate issues involved in legal practice.

The original ABA constitution, which is still substantially the charter of the Association, defined the purpose of the ABA as being for "the advancement of the science of jurisprudence, the promotion of the administration of justice and a uniformity of legislation throughout the country...."

Today, the stated 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."

The Goals of the ABA

The 11 goals of the ABA are to:

  • Promote improvement in the American system of justice.
  • Promote meaningful access to legal representation and the American system of justice for all persons regardless of their economic or social condition.
  • Provide ongoing leadership in improving the law to serve the changing needs of society.
  • Increase public understanding of and respect for the law, the legal process and the role of the legal profession.
  • Achieve the highest standards of professionalism, competence, and ethical conduct.
  • Serve as the national representative of the legal profession.
  • Provide benefits, programs, and services that promote professional growth and enhance the quality of life of the members.
  • Advance the rule of law in the world.
  • Promote full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities and women.
  • Preserve and enhance the ideals of the legal profession as a common calling and its dedication to public service.
  • Preserve the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary as fundamental to a free society.

The ABA Today

The ABA's influence today stems from both the number and diversity of its membership. ABA members represent approximately half of all lawyers in the United States. In addition, the Law Student Division has more than 33,000 members.

ABA membership is open to lawyers admitted to practice and in good standing before the bar of any state or territory of the United States.

Eligible to join the ABA as associates are non-lawyer judges, federal court executives, bar association executives, law school educators, criminal justice professionals, members of administrative agencies, industrial organization economists, law office administrators, legal assistants, law librarians and members of Association-approved law school boards of visitors. Members of the legal profession in other nations who have not been admitted to the practice of law in the United States can become international associates.

About 50,000 lawyers joined the Association in the last year.