In addition to mandatory state or local bar memberships, today's legal practitioner needs to consider joining one of the many voluntary professional legal organizations. Continuing education, practice management, and networking opportunities — these represent only a few of the many perks that these associations can offer their members. There are organizations for every legal specialty and every type of lawyer. Here are links and brief descriptions for five of the leading legal professional organizations:
The American Bar Association is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations, with over 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities. It is committed to doing what only a national association of attorneys can do: serving its members, improving the legal profession, eliminating bias and enhancing diversity, and advancing the rule of law throughout the United States and around the world.
Founded in 1878, the ABA is committed to supporting the legal profession with practical resources for legal professionals while improving the administration of justice, accrediting law schools, establishing model ethical codes, and more. Membership is open to lawyers, law students, and others interested in the law and the legal profession.
The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global bar association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other organizations through information, education, networking opportunities and advocacy initiatives.
The organization attempts to anticipate and understand the needs of the in-house bar; help members deliver services to their corporate clients efficiently; promote the value of in-house services; influence the practice of law as it affects the in-house bar; and deliver a mix of relevant, timely services including information, education, networking and advocacy.
With more than 40,000 members employed by over 10,000 organizations in 85 countries, ACC connects its members to each other and to the people and resources necessary for their personal and professional growth.
The American Association for Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA®), provides trial attorneys with information, professional support and a nationwide network that enables them to most effectively and expertly represent clients. The mission of the American Association for Justice is to promote a fair and effective justice system—and to support the work of attorneys in their efforts to ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct or negligence of others can obtain justice in America’s courtrooms, even when taking on the most powerful interests.
DRI is an organization of defense attorneys and in-house counsel. Membership in DRI provides access to resources and tools for attorneys who strive to provide high-quality, balanced and excellent service to their clients and corporations. DRI is host to 29 substantive committees whose focus is to develop ongoing and critical dialogue about areas of practice. DRI provides access to resources and tools to grow members’ practices – members can search a database of more than 65,000 experts, attend CLE seminars, conferences and webcasts, network with 20,000+ like-minded defense practitioners and more. DRI is committed to enhancing the skills, effectiveness and professionalism of defense lawyers; anticipating and addressing issues germane to defense lawyers and the civil justice system; promoting appreciation of the role of the defense lawyer; and improving the civil justice system and preserving the civil jury.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is the preeminent organization in the United States advancing the mission of the nation's criminal defense lawyers to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or other misconduct. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's thousands of direct members in 28 countries - and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys -- include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, active U.S. military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness within America's criminal justice system.
Today's online world requires instant access to knowledge in order to stay competitive. In this section, the savvy legal practitioner can access databases and software providing up-to-date legal information from courts, case law, periodicals and digital citations, as well as information on law firm management and continuing legal education, often without having to leave the office, and some with no or minimal cost. Here are a links to and summaries of five of the most comprehensive sites for legal resources:
The ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division (GPSolo) is the national voice for solo, small firm and general practice lawyers, including military and government lawyers, providing them with a welcoming, diverse and inclusive ABA home. It offers each practitioner a portal to the full resources of its Division, ensuring platforms, programs and collaborations that support and advance small and solo practitioners not only in their legal practices but also in their personal lives.
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information online from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts, and the PACER Case Locator. PACER is provided by the Federal Judiciary in keeping with its commitment to providing public access to court information via a centralized service.
LexisNexis Legal & Professional is a global provider of legal, regulatory and business information and analytics that help customers increase productivity, improve decision-making and outcomes, and advance the rule of law around the world. It combines content, technology and analytics to advance the rule of law and shape a more just world where all are equal under the law.
The other heavyweight in the online legal research and software field, FindLaw (an affiliate of WestLaw) has a site for legal professionals where you can find anything from legal software to expert witnesses. Free and for fee legal forms are available for download, cases and codes can be researched, and legal headlines can be browsed.
Twenty major legal publications, such as The American Lawyer and The National Law Journal, can be found for free and online through the Law.com site. In addition to receiving top legal news daily on The Newswire, subscribers can also access the CLE (Continuing Legal Education) center and satisfy state CLE requirements online. Links to legal job listings, an online book store, and research and databases are also provided.
The Library of Congress Law Library is the largest law library in the world, with over 2.6 million volumes. Located in Washington, DC, access to the library is free to registered users. Although most of the collection is not available online, the Library is beginning to digitize some of its historical collections such as Congressional legislative documents. Additionally, Law Librarians are available to answer legal research inquiries by telephone or e-mail. A listing of worldwide legal and legislative databases and eResources can be accessed online, either by topic or by title.