The Importance of Bar Associations
Many practicing attorneys are members of State Bar. These organizations, in addition to administering licensing requirements, provide a number of services to its members. However, there are 35 other local and specialty bar associations in such states as Michigan.
What are they and what services do they provide?
First, there are local bar associations that serve lawyer members in specific counties, cities and towns. Many provide practice benefits including:
- Substantive information on practice trends,
- Affordable continuing legal education through its practice sections,
- Fostering relationships among members,
- Referral services for the public,
- Mentoring—both as mentor and mentee, and
- Cultivating camaraderie and professional respect.
Successful bar associations have members who dedicate real time and effort to the organization. By doing so, members can develop relationships they need to grow their business. An example is the Ingham County Bar Association, to which I belong, begun in 1895 and still providing networking opportunities including awards banquets, fundraisers, a luncheon lecture series, a newsletter and a bench/bar conference.
Second, there are specialty bar associations which serve attorneys who work in a specific practice area. They can be a source for information about your chosen niche practice area. Examples in Michigan are:
- Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan--Hosts two yearly conferences to update its members on developments in the practice of criminal defense.
- Michigan Creditors Bar Association—provides education on collection law,
- Michigan Intellectual Property Law Association—sponsors social events, career panels at law schools and a luncheon speaker series.
- Michigan Association of Justice—one of the largest specialty groups, its goal is to help the working class of Michigan if they are wrongfully injured.
Finally, there are bar associations that serve specific groups of people such as:
- National Association of Women Lawyers which strives to secure the full and equal participation of women in the legal profession,
- Wolverine Bar Association, established in the 1930’s for African-American attorneys in Michigan addressing the unique and distinct needs of their community for legal service, representation, and protection, or
- Catholic Lawyers Society sponsoring several events for its members throughout the year.
As you can see, bar associations are as varied as the profession itself. Deciding which association to join can be difficult and may change as you progress through your legal life. Many lawyers begin with the local bar association and then move on to add a niche practice area or specific group of people. Each provides benefits; only you can decide if those benefits will help you and your practice