What Is the History of the American Bar Association?

The American Bar Association (ABA) is a professional organization for lawyers in the United States. It was founded on August 21, 1878, by 75 lawyers from 20 states and the District of Columbia. The ABA’s mission is to serve its members, improve the legal profession, and promote justice.

The Early Years

In its early years, the ABA focused on improving the quality of legal education and promoting uniformity in state laws. The organization also played a role in advocating for women’s suffrage and civil rights.

One of the ABA’s earliest accomplishments was creating a code of ethics for lawyers. In 1908, the ABA’s Committee on Professional Ethics drafted the Canons of Ethics, which established guidelines for lawyer conduct. These canons were later adopted by state bar associations and remain an important part of legal ethics today.

The ABA in the 20th Century

In the 20th century, the ABA continued to work on improving legal education and advocating for civil rights. The organization also expanded its focus to include international law.

During World War II, the ABA played a role in advocating for civil liberties and helping Japanese Americans who were interned during the war. In 1943, the ABA created its Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants to address issues related to access to justice.

In 1957, Thurgood Marshall became a member of the ABA and played an active role in promoting civil rights within the organization. Marshall later became a Supreme Court Justice.

The Modern ABA

Today, the ABA has over 400,000 members and continues to play an important role in shaping American law and policy. The organization focuses on issues such as access to justice, diversity in the legal profession, and promoting excellence in legal education.

The ABA also operates several programs and initiatives, including the Center for Human Rights, the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, and the Commission on Immigration.

In recent years, the ABA has taken a strong stance on issues such as gun violence, immigration reform, and protecting civil liberties. The organization remains committed to promoting justice and improving the legal profession in the United States.


The American Bar Association has a long and storied history in the United States. From its early days of promoting legal education to its modern focus on access to justice and civil rights, the ABA has played an important role in shaping American law and policy. As the legal profession continues to evolve, the ABA will undoubtedly continue to play an important role in advocating for justice and promoting excellence in legal practice.