The Alabama State Bar (ASB) is the official statewide organization of lawyers in Alabama. Since 1923, the ASB has been dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility and competence of its members, improving the administration of justice, and increasing the public’s understanding of and respect for the law. The values that guide the State Bar are: Trust, Integrity and Service.
Alabama State Bar Headquarters After a preliminary meeting in Montgomery on December 13, 1878, delegates from the bar of each county met on January 15, 1879, at the House of Representatives to organize the State Bar Association. At this conference, delegates adopted the constitution and by-laws of the ASB and elected officers to serve until the first annual meeting, set for the first Tuesday in December 1879.
The ASB continued as a voluntary body until August 9, 1923, when its efforts culminated in an act of the Alabama State Legislature that provided for the organization, regulation, and government of the statewide association, thereby creating the “unified bar” that now exists. Also in 1923, the legislature passed legislation integrating the ASB with state government. Integration made membership in the traditionally voluntary association mandatory, thereby allowing the Alabama Supreme Court to better regulate the legal profession. The first meeting of the ASB Commission was held on January 8, 1924, when the Board of Commissioners appointed the first Board of Examiners and adopted rules regulating requirements for admission to practice law and governing the conduct of attorneys in Alabama.
Since its creation as a unified bar, the ASB has initiated programs addressing a wide range of public concerns, including merit selection of judges, securing adequate funding for representing indigent defendants, ensuring that nonlawyers sit on disciplinary panels, and encouraging the use of mediation as an alternative method of dispute resolution. The ASB plays an influential role in determining public and social policy in state and national forums.
Under the enabling legislation that appears in the Code of Alabama, the ASB serves a dual role. First, the ASB is the licensing and regulatory agency for lawyers in Alabama. It protects the public by ensuring that lawyers who are granted licenses meet the baseline competencies to practice law and that they also abide by the profession’s ethical standards. Second, the ASB is a private association with responsibilities that are largely of a service nature: education, publications, and improvement of the administration of justice. These activities benefit the legal profession as well as the general public. The state bar also proposes model rules of professional responsibility—which govern the daily business and ethical practice of lawyers—for adoption by the supreme court.
The ASB is composed principally of practicing attorneys, judges, law teachers, and nonpracticing lawyers who are business executives, government officials, and court administrators. It represents practitioners in specialized areas of law as well as affiliated, law‑related organizations and groups with special interests or needs. Membership in the ASB is open to lawyers admitted to practice and in good standing before the bar of Alabama as well as to members of the profession in good standing in any other state. Approximately 25 percent of all ASB members, not counting law students, are 36 years of age or younger. The ASB’s influence today stems from both the size and diversity of its membership. Association members represent all lawyers admitted to practice in Alabama.
The annual budget of the association is more than $5 million. Although the state legislature makes the appropriation that funds the operations and programming of ASB, no tax dollars are used to support its activities. All practicing attorneys pay an annual license fee, which goes into a special trust fund, and these monies are distributed in the appropriation.