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American Bar Association

From Academic Kids

The American Bar Association (ABA) is a voluntary bar association of lawyers which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important non-controversial activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation of model legal codes, of which the most important is a code of ethical standards for lawyers (see Watergate scandal for more information). The Model Code of Professional Responsibility (1969) and/or the newer Model Rules of Professional Conduct (1983) have been adopted in 49 state jurisdictions and the District of Columbia. The only exception is California, which has refused to adopt either, although a few sections of the California Rules of Professional Responsibility were clearly influenced by the ABA models.

The ABA has a 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.

It has been criticized for perceived elitism and an over-representation of white male corporate defense lawyers in its makeup; African-American lawyers formed the National Bar Association after the ABA decided that it would not allow them to be members.

However, since the 1960s, the ABA has made great strides in increasing the diversity of its membership. Its membership has grown from less than 11 percent of all American lawyers to roughly 50 percent today. 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, capital punishment and gun control. The ABA's official position favoring abortion rights led to the formation of a (much smaller) alternative organization for lawyers, the National Lawyers Association.

The Association publishes a general magazine for all members, the ABA Journal. ABA members may also join subject-specific "sections," and each section publishes a variety of newsletters and magazines for its members. The sections also hold their own meetings.

In 1995 Roberta Cooper Ramo became the first woman president of the American Bar Association since its inception in 1878. In 2003 Dennis W. Archer, former mayor of Detroit, Michigan, became the first African-American president of the ABA. He was followed immediately by the second, Robert J. Grey, Jr. of Richmond, Virginia for the 2004-2005 term.

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