Whether it be because of a lack of time or an increase in alternative online resources, many attorneys seem perfectly content with not being active bar association participants. In this guide we’ll do our best to change that, and make the case for why lawyers should be getting involved with as many bar associations as their schedule allows them to.
Below we’ll provide a brief overview of the many types of bar associations that exist for attorneys to join and the value each type is able to provide. At the bottom of this post you’ll also find a full bar association directory. Even if you aren’t fully ready to commit to becoming a bar association super fan, knowing what programs and benefits are available to your firm is an absolute must.
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State Bar Associations
A significant number of the people reading this post are probably already part of their state’s bar association, and are most likely members because they have to be. But just because something is mandatory doesn’t mean it can’t provide value. In fact, if you head over to your state bar’s website now, you’re likely to find a wide range of incredible offerings that can greatly aid your life working in law. Here are some prime examples of benefits you’re likely to come across.
Completing CLE courses can often feel like a hassle, but fortunately a lot of state bars are making it easier for lawyers to participate in these new learning opportunities. COVID-19 restrictions have forced bar associations to get more creative with the ways they offer CLE training opportunities, and as a result, more and more state bars have begun offering virtual CLE courses. The Pennsylvania State Bar Association for example offers lawyers over 600 on-demand courses, live webinars, and live webcasts. This will be a trend that most lawyers hope continues on for years to come, as it allows them to continue to accumulate valuable knowledge, and do so right from the comfort of their own living room or office.
The BeaconLive Marketing team shared some interesting thoughts on the future of CLE courses in a recent post on their website that bears repeating here. “The widespread use of webinars will continue to grow,” BeaconLive Marketing said. “In-person programs will no longer be the primary form of CLE as we begin to accommodate the younger generation of lawyers. Yes, attorneys will continue to physically attend conferences in order to develop new relationships and nurture previously established ones. But as online collaboration and networking increases, learning will quickly transition to eLearning for most legal professionals looking to advance their breadth of knowledge—and webinars and online seminars are the go-to solution.”
Networking and business development opportunities
Making friends as an adult isn’t always the easiest thing to do. But, boy does having friends in the legal community make life easier for attorneys during the early years of growing their firm. This is why lawyers would be wise to take advantage of as many networking events and programs as they can, even if it does feel a bit awkward or stressful in the beginning.
Valerie Fontaine, managing member of the firm Seltzer Fontaine LLC shared her thoughts on the bar association networking in a blog post for her firm’s website. “Early in your career, especially, a bar association’s built-in networking source can provide access to formal and informal mentorship opportunities and role models,” Fontaine said. “Some professional organizations have formal coaching programs. But, even on an informal basis, contacts made through participation in bar activities are a valuable source of information and solutions when you face a challenging situation in your practice.”
Most state bars will hold annual (and in many cases semi-annual meetings) for their members, which offer a great opportunity for lawyers to mingle and get to know attorneys in their state who aren’t direct competitors in their area. The Texas State Bar for example is holding an annual meeting for its members next June in Houston. You never know when you might strike up a relationship with a great new referral source.
Your state bar association can also make it easier for prospective clients to find you. Nearly all bar association websites have an attorney directory for public use that helps users find lawyers for specific types of legal matters. Even if this directory only brings you a few worthwhile clients a year, it’s still worth signing up.
Over the past decade we’ve seen lawyer wellness become an important topic of discussion in the legal community. Last November, our blog shared a guide featuring a number of outlets for lawyers to get assistance for mental health related issues, which you can check out here. State bar associations seem to be getting on board with this trend, and are offering more and more outlets for lawyers to get help with wellness related struggles.
One example of this is Alabama’s Lawyer Assistance Program, which offers ongoing guidance and support for any lawyer, law student or judge that may be in need. The program provides confidential intervention and assistance for issues related to alcohol/drug addiction and depression before ethical conduct is compromised or discipline warranted.
If you’re a lawyer who is currently struggling, you should definitely reach out to your state bar to see what assistance programs they currently have available.
Everyone likes to save money, and if you’re a lawyer in charge of a growing firm, you should be looking to take advantage of as many discounts as possible. So no matter how involved a relationship you want to have with your state bar, you should take the time to find out what discounts they offer their members. The New York State Bar Association for example offers a wide range of discount opportunities for its members, including discounts on books, CLE programs, legal softwares, research tools, and even rental cars.
If your state bar association doesn’t offer some of the services and opportunities listed above, don’t worry. There are plenty of other lawyer associations to explore that may meet your more specific needs.
Local Bar Associations
Local bar associations, also known as LBAs, are made up of groups of lawyers in your region. These bar associations are voluntary, which often makes them a more difficult sell for attorneys with overloaded work calendars. But, many lawyers will find that their local bar association provides them with faster results than a state bar association might, as they are given more opportunities for building meaningful relationships and credibility within their community. Here are some reasons to consider getting involved with your local bar.
The chance to get to know your future clients
Local bar association events are always worth attending, as they often provide a direct line for lawyers to engage with the people in their community. And while you’re unlikely to leave a local bar association event with a handful of new clients, you will be given the chance to make an impression on a few dozen potential future clients. And when those individuals eventually need a lawyer or know someone who does, you’re likely to be one of the first names they think of. Getting to know more about the people in your community and what they value and care about most can also help you with putting together future marketing campaigns. The more knowledge you have about your target audience, the better. Also much like state bars, local bars will often have their own lawyer referral services that can help law firms connect with new clients in their area.
An opportunity to build relationships with other local businesses
Relationship marketing is absolutely crucial for growing law practices, and attorneys should always be on the lookout for organizations in their area who they can turn into future referral sources for their firm. While having other law firms referring you clients is always great, lawyers should also try and build relationships with local businesses that may be relevant to the work they do. For example, in our 2018 marketing eBook, personal injury attorney Steven H. Heisler told us that he cultivates relationships with chiropractor and orthopedic doctors in his area as a method of generating new leads. Local bar associations are likely to hold events where plenty of local business owners are present, and lawyers can begin building long-lasting relationships that will bring them lots of new business for years to come.
More pro bono work
Taking on pro bono cases can be a great way to not only aid your local community, but improve the reputation of your firm and its lawyers. Your local bar association is typically a great avenue for finding pro bono case opportunities. They’ll often be able to work with the busy schedule of attorneys, and provide firms with all the necessary tools they need to get started with a new pro bono client.
Speciality Bar Associations
State and local bar associations can truly offer a lot, but lawyers may want to explore specialty bar associations as well to enjoy benefits that feel more personalized towards the work they do. “A state bar association gives lawyers an understanding of their local practice and events, but state bars have many practice areas and sizes to serve,” says Charity Anastasio, Practice Management Advisor at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “A specialty bar, whether it is predicated on interest or practice area, can help a lawyer get a deeper understanding and exposure to a particular field or interest.” Here are few of the biggest benefits specialty bar associations have to offer.
Exclusive events in exciting locations
If you’re a lawyer who is always looking for an excuse to travel and go visit fun cities, then you should definitely be on the lookout for annual conferences being held by specialty bar associations. AILA for example is holding its next annual conference in New York City. Not only can these events present a nice built-in break in a lawyer’s work life, but they also will focus on topics exclusively related to the type of law you work in. Just about every presentation at these events is likely to be relevant to your firm. You’ll be truly getting your money’s worth. You’ll also get to connect with a ton of other lawyers in your field, and pick their brains to see what has made them successful.
Learning opportunities specific to your interest or field
While just about every bar association has valuable educational courses to offer, speciality bar associations tend to take it to another level. “The breadth and depth of knowledge a member has access to, through the mentorship directory and local chapter mentorship programs, the focused continuing legal education at all levels—beginner, intermediate, and advanced–, the specialized training for their paralegals, and the commitment to professional development of each of its members is more relevant and focused at a specialty bar,” Anastasio said. Examples of educational resources speciality bar associations can provide include the research library page on AILA’s website and the knowledge base page on the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ website.
The chance to meet future colleagues
You never know when a new connection may prove to be valuable down the line. By engaging in specialty bar association events, you’ll be introduced to a wide range of talented people who work in your field. And in the future when you’re either looking to hire some great for your firm or work at a new practice, having those connections in place could end up making all the difference.
Bar Associations That Serve Specific Groups
Lawyers who are looking to collaborate with others who specifically share their gender, ethnicity or religion may find tremendous value in joining bar associations that serve specific groups. Examples of these associations include the National Association of Women Lawyers (which has been around since 1899), the Hispanic National Bar Association and the Catholic Bar Association. Here are some of the biggest reasons lawyers should consider joining one of these types of bar associations.
Lend your time and efforts to valuable causes
Many bar associations that serve specific groups will be made of those who are largely underrepresented in the legal community. While we’ve seen the legal world become significantly more diverse in recent decades, there is still a long way to go in making sure everyone’s voice has the chance to be heard. By joining one of these types of associations, you’ll have the chance to help forward your community’s place in the legal profession and create more opportunities for individuals like yourself in the future. Bar associations can typically provide terrific guidance on the best ways to get involved and give you a role to play in helping your community’s cause.
Become a leading voice in your community
If you’re looking to speak up on matters that affect your specific legal community, joining a relevant bar association can be a great route to go. You’ll have the chance to attend lots of events with others from your community, speak directly to other leading voices in your community, and over time could end up becoming an event speaker or program director yourself. Many bar associations will also have print and online publications where lawyers can share their opinions on specific issues, and have their voices amplified.
Expand your networking opportunities even further
When joining a bar association that serves a specific group, you’ll be given lots of opportunities to team up with lawyers who share common beliefs. Competition between lawyers will often be set aside in these cases, as you’ll be working together towards achieving common goals. This will likely make it easier for attorneys to build strong relationships with each other, and develop friends that can aid them in their legal careers for years to come.
American Bar Association
We’d be remiss to put together a guide to bar associations, and not include a section about the benefits provided by the American Bar Association. The organization has been around since 1878, and incredibly still remains a top resource for lawyers in the 2020s. Here are some benefits that come included with an ABA membership.
Free access to CLE programs
The ABA provides its members with a library of over 600 widely accredited online programs which can help meet state MCLE requirements. As is the case with many other bar associations, the ABA offers CLE courses in virtual formats. This includes on-demand courses which are available in audio and video formats. The ABA website also offers its members an extensive CLE marketplace to browse through, with a wide variety of course topics to select from.
High quality educational content
With the ABA, the opportunities for learning extend well beyond CLE courses. The bar association offers an extensive collection of educational material on topics related to legal marketing, law office management, legal technology, legal finance and much more! This education is presented in the form of books, programs, webinars, magazines and web pages. The learning continues even further at the association’s many events, which includes the ABA Annual Convention and ABA TECHSHOW.
Career development opportunities
The ABA provides its members with many resources that can aid with career growth and has in place a job board for law students, lawyers, and legal professionals across all practice areas and career stages. The board includes over 1,000 legal jobs. The association also provides a dynamic board of legal career professionals contributing monthly articles, webinars, and podcasts that offer members guidance on their career path from start to finish.
Bar Association Directory
List of State Bars in the U.S.
- Alabama State Bar
- Alaska Bar Association
- State Bar of Arizona
- Arkansas Bar Association
- The State Bar of California
- Colorado Bar Association
- Connecticut Bar Association
- Delaware State Bar Association
- DC Bar
- The Florida Bar
- State Bar of Georgia
- Hawaii State Bar Association
- Idaho State Bar
- Illinois State Bar Association
- Indiana State Bar
- The Iowa State Bar Association
- Kansas Bar Association
- Kentucky Bar Association
- Louisiana State Bar Association
- Maine State Bar Association
- Maryland State Bar Association
- Massachusetts Bar Association
- State Bar of Michigan
- Minnesota State Bar Association
- The Mississippi Bar
- The Missouri Bar
- State Bar of Montana
- Nebraska State Bar Association
- State Bar of Nevada
- New Hampshire Bar Association
- New Jersey State Bar Association
- State Bar of New Mexico
- New York State Bar Association
- North Carolina Bar Association
- State Bar Association of North Dakota
- Ohio State Bar Association
- Oklahoma Bar Association
- Oregon State Bar
- Pennsylvania Bar Association
- Rhode Island Bar Association
- South Carolina Bar
- State Bar of South Dakota
- Tennessee Bar Association
- State Bar of Texas
- Utah State Bar
- Vermont Bar Association
- Virginia State Bar
- Virgin Islands Bar Association
- Washington State Bar Association
- West Virginia State Bar
- State Bar of Wisconsin
- Wyoming State Bar
List of Specialty Bars in the U.S.
- American Immigration Lawyers Association
- American Intellectual Property Law Association
- American Judicature Society
- American Law Institute
- Association of American Law Schools
- Association of Life Insurance Counsel
- Conference of Chief Justices
- Energy Bar Association
- Federal Bar Association
- Federal Circuit Bar Association
- Federal Communications Bar Association
- Judge Advocates Association
- Maritime Law Association of the United States
- National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
- National Association of Attorneys General
- National Association of Bar Executives
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- National Conference of Bar Examiners
- National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform
- National District Attorneys Association
- National Legal Aid and Defender Association
- National Organization of Bar Counsel
List of Bars That Serve Specific Groups in the U.S.
- American Association Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
- Association of Black Women Attorneys
- Catholic Bar Association
- Hispanic National Bar Association
- National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
- National Association of Women Judges
- National Association of Women Lawyers
- National Bar Association
- National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations
- National LGBT Bar Association
- National Native American Bar Association
Are there any associations that need to be added to our directory? Email [email protected] to let us know.