The American Bar Association, or ABA, is the largest private organization of lawyers and legal professionals in the United States. While it does not have any official standing regarding legal matters, as membership is not strictly required to legally practice as a lawyer, it is generally shown respect and membership is often seen as a sign of professional respectability. Many law students, while still in school to become a lawyer, join the American Bar Association and maintain membership throughout the completion of their education and their service as a professional lawyer.
Boasting hundreds of thousands of members, the American Bar Association helps provide school accreditation for law schools, maintains standards for continuing legal education for its members, and provides dozens of publications and periodicals for and written by its members. Membership is contingent upon paying financial dues and maintaining a certain level of professional quality. Lawyers who wish to join the American Bar Association are typically also required to be licensed within the state they are working in as lawyers. This ensures that only those who have passed the necessary educational and testing requirements to become a lawyer are given membership.
There are dozens of different publications released each year by different committees and groups within the American Bar Association. These include 14 magazines, more than 30 newsletters, more than 10 professional journals, and four different annuals released every year. Publication in these types of journals allows members to spread ideas and give advice to each other. This creates a network of thousands of lawyers working together to establish laws and practices intended to serve the common good.
The American Bar Association is divided into thousands of committees and smaller groups to allow members to focus on a particular area of legal interest or development. These groups cover everything from developing education, general practice, and health law, to intellectual property law, taxation, and state and local government law. The American Bar Association also works with the public to enhance general understanding and knowledge of the law and legal proceedings in an effort to remove some of the traditional divide between those who practice the law and those they are meant to be serving.
The American Bar Association also provides advice and recommendations to non-members looking to hire the services of a lawyer. While not every recommendation is likely to be perfect, such matchmaking services at least strive to provide people with better legal representation. With hundreds of thousands of lawyers practicing throughout the US, finding the right one can be difficult, and such assistance can help someone narrow his or her options.