Bar Associations

Voluntary bars

Unified bars  

The Missouri Bar

Bar services  

Bar authority  

Dues support disciplinary program  


There are two types of bar organizations in the United States.

A. Voluntary bar associations exist at the national, state and local levels.

1. Membership is by choice. Examples include the American Bar Association at the national level; the Illinois, Kansas and Iowa Bar Associations at the state level; and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, the Lawyers Association of Kansas City, and the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis at the local level.

2. Most counties and/or judicial circuits in Missouri have local bar associations that meet periodically.

B. Unified (integrated) bar associations exist only at the state level.

1. They are quasi-governmental agencies, usually established by rule of the state Supreme Court or, on occasion, by state legislature.

2. Membership is mandatory for every lawyer licensed to practice law in the state.

3. Because membership in an integrated (unified) bar is mandatory, the activities in which it can engage, such as lobbying, are more limited than those of a voluntary bar association. The limitations were set forth in a United States Supreme Court opinion in the case of Lathrop v. Donohue, 367 U.S. 820, 877-78 (1961). The issue was also addressed in a 1988 Wisconsin case, Levine v. Heffernan, 691 F.Supp. 1973 (1988), cert. denied, 110 S.Ct. 204 (1989), which challenged the constitutionality of required membership by a lawyer in a unified bar. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court further explained the limitations imposed on the relationship between lawyers and mandatory bars in Keller v. State Bar of California.

4. The Missouri Bar is a unified bar established by rule of the Supreme Court of Missouri.

a. Every lawyer licensed to practice law in Missouri must hold membership in The Missouri Bar.

b. Every lawyer pays an annual enrollment fee, a portion of which supports the work of The Missouri Bar.


Provided by Bar Associations, Both Voluntary and Unified, Include:

A. Committees to improve the administration of justice and to make legal services readily available to the public;

B. Legal education programs to improve the competency of lawyers by keeping them informed of changes in the law;

C. Educational services to help citizens better understand the legal and judicial system and how to use it to solve their problems;

D. Providing information to the news media;

E. Providing members with information on insurance programs, information data, liaison with other bar groups and legal organizations.

Bar Organizations Have Limited Authority.  

A. Bar groups in Missouri and in most other states do not establish and enforce rules of conduct for lawyers.

1. Neither The Missouri Bar nor any local bar association has authority to establish or enforce rules of conduct for lawyers in Missouri.

2. Authority in this area rests with the Supreme Court of Missouri (see Handbook Chapter XII, "Standards of Conduct for Judges and Attorneys").

B. The American Bar Association has no power to establish or enforce rules of conduct for lawyers and judges.

1. It does have committees that study ethical problems and draft suggested rules of conduct that are publicized nationally.

2. These are suggestions and serve as models that the supreme courts of individual states may consider in adopting their own ethical guidelines. In Missouri, these guidelines are known as the "Code of Judicial Conduct" for judges and the "Rules of Professional Conduct" for lawyers (see Handbook Chapter XII, "Standards of Conduct for Judges and Attorneys").

A portion of the annual enrollment fee paid by Missouri lawyers to the Supreme Court of Missouri supports the work of the Advisory Committee and the circuit bar committees, which enforce the Court's disciplinary rules. (Functions of the committee are outlined in this Handbook, Chapter XII, "Standards of Conduct for Judges and Attorneys.")