The Importance of Bar Associations
The State Bar of Michigan provides several services to its members and opportunities to volunteer. However, there are many other local and specialty bar associations within Michigan.
What are they and what do they provide?
First, local bar associations serve lawyer members in specific cities, counties, and regions. 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 a mentor and mentee
- Cultivating camaraderie and professional respect
Successful bar associations have members who dedicate time and effort to the organization. By doing so, members can develop the relationships they need to grow their business. One example is the Ingham County Bar Association, of which I am a member, which started in 1895 and still provides networking opportunities including award banquets, fundraisers, luncheon lecture series, newsletter, and a bench/bar conference.
Second, there are specialty bar associations which serve attorneys who work in specific practice areas. They can serve as an invaluable source for information. Some examples in Michigan include:
- 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 has one of the largest specialty groups, and its goal is to help the working class 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 which was established in the 1930s for African American attorneys in Michigan addressing the unique and distinct needs of their community for legal services, representation, and protection.
- Catholic Lawyers Society sponsoring several events for its members throughout the year.
As you can see, bar associations are as diverse as the profession itself. Deciding which association to join can be difficult and may change as you progress through your legal career. Many lawyers begin with a local bar association and then move on to add specific practice areas. Each association provides its benefits, and only you can decide if those benefits will help you and your practice.
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides writing services to lawyers ghostwriting content for websites, blogs, and articles. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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