The American Bar Association (ABA), founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation of model ethical codes related to the legal profession.
The ABA has 410,000 members. Its national headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois; it also maintains a significant branch office in Washington, D.C.
The ABA was founded on August 21, 1878, in Saratoga Springs, New York, by 75 lawyers from 20 states and the District of Columbia. According to the ABA website,
"The legal profession as we know it today barely existed at that time. Lawyers were generally sole practitioners who trained under a system of apprenticeship. There was no national code of ethics; there was no national organization to serve as a forum for discussion of the increasingly intricate issues involved in legal practice."
The purpose of the original organization, as set forth in its first constitution, was "the advancement of the science of jurisprudence, the promotion of the administration of justice and a uniformity of legislation throughout the country...."
In 1918 the first women were admitted to the ABA – Judge Mary Belle Grossman of Cleveland and Mary Florence Lathrop of Denver.
The ABA did not allow African-Americans to join until 1943.
Roberta Cooper Ramo was the first female President of the ABA from 1995–1996.
In 2016 ABA introduced a new ethics rule prohibiting attorneys from using sexist, racist and condescending terms.