American Bar Association

The American Bar Association is long-standing legal society operating within the United States' borders. It was founded on August 21, 1878, and is the largest legal society in the country, boasting upwards of 410,000 members. The American Bar Association is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois but maintains branch offices around the country for easy accessibility. According to the ABA's press releases, it " "provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public. The 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."

Accreditation of Schools

The American Bar Association has accredited 193 law schools to date in 2006, and serves as the chief regulatory body for the education of the profession. Attending an ABA accredited school is important not only due to the credence it presents, but for the simple fact that graduation from an ABA-accredited school is a required prerequisite in many states for taking their bar exam. The process of American Bar Association accreditation for a law school is quite rigorous, involving a two year probationary period wherein they are observed, with certain elements of the program changed to comply with American Bar Association standards. After this two year period, the school still must conform to established and new standards and guidelines set by the ABA.

Ethical Standards for Lawyers

While a major responsibility of the American Bar Association is accrediting law schools, perhaps the more important role it plays in the legal community is that of providing ethical standards for lawyers. The organization wrote the Model Code of Professional Responsibility in 1969, and revised it into the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 1983. Forty nine states have adopted either of these two codes as their guiding principles towards standards in their courtrooms. The lone exception is the state of California.

Criticism

The American Bar Association was sued by the Department of Justice for violating the Sherman Anti-trust Act. It was accused of creating a trust (monopoly) in the legal field, stifling free-market competition in the arena. Other than this, the ABA is an extremely reputable legal society.