Illinois State Bar Association

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Illinois State Bar Association
ISBA logo.gif
Logo of the Illinois State Bar Association
Type Legal Society
Headquarters Springfield, IL
  • United States
30,000 [1]
Illinois State Bar Association in Springfield, Illinois

The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. Approximately 30,000 lawyers are members of the ISBA. Unlike some state bar associations, in which membership is mandatory, ISBA membership is not required of lawyers licensed to practice in Illinois, and ISBA membership is totally voluntary. The ISBA is headquartered in Springfield, Illinois. It also has an office in Chicago, Illinois.


The ISBA was founded on January 4, 1877 at a meeting held in the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield, Illinois attended by 88 lawyers from 37 counties. According to the association's constitution adopted at that time, the purpose of the association is:

[T]o cultivate the science of jurisprudence, to promote reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice, to elevate the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession, to encourage a thorough and liberal education, and to cherish a spirit of brotherhood among the members thereof.

This first meeting elected Anthony Thornton as first president of the ISBA.

In 1879, the ISBA gained notoriety after it granted honorary membership to Myra Bradwell and Ada Kepley after they were denied admission to the bar on the grounds that they were women.

Responding to a request from the Supreme Court of Illinois on how to improve the quality of Illinois lawyers, in 1897 the ISBA and the Chicago Bar Association recommended that the court require lawyers to have at least a high school education; they also recommended creating what would become the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar. The Illinois Supreme Court accepted both recommendations.

The ISBA would later lead a crusade against the unauthorized practice of law; in 1931, they brought a suit against People's Stock Yards State Bank in which they convinced the Illinois Supreme Court to declare that it had the inherent authority to punish anyone who practiced law without a law license.

The ISBA spent decades lobbying for reform of Illinois' civil procedure, and this ultimately paid off in 1933, when the Illinois General Assembly passed the Civil Practice Act of 1933.

In 1962, the ISBA led a campaign to change the judicial article of the Illinois Constitution. The ISBA also played a large role in developing the current Illinois Criminal Code (1961) and Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure (1963).

In the 1970s and 1980s, the ISBA lobbied successfully to have Illinois adopt a regime of no-fault divorce and for independent administration of decedents' estates.

The ISBA also played a role in creating the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Client Security Fund of the Bar of Illinois, the Lawyers' Assistance Program, and the Lawyers Trust Fund.

Organization and activities

The ISBA's supreme policy making body is the ISBA Assembly, consisting of 201 lawyer members elected by ISBA members, representing districts throughout Illinois. The Assembly meets twice a year. The Assembly has taken positions on a number of important matters, including repeal of the death penalty in Illinois, support of civil unions, and support of U.S. ratification of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Between meetings of the Assembly, the ISBA is governed by a 25-member Board of Governors (headed by the president of the ISBA) elected by the Assembly.

The ISBA is currently divided into 40 substantive law divisions, allowing ISBA members the opportunity to meet other lawyers who practice in the same field. Each section publishes a newsletter to keep its members aware of substantive changes in the field of law. The sections also offer continuing legal education services for members. One of these sections, the Young Lawyers Division, is for lawyers 36 years old and younger, and is designed to give young lawyers an opportunity to meet and discuss issues peculiar to younger practitioners.

The ISBA also has 32 standing committees created by either the Assembly or the Board of Governors. Each committee consists mainly of members appointed by the ISBA president. These committees study issues facing the legal community and make recommendations to the ISBA Assembly.

The ISBA sponsors a number of publications, including the Illinois Bar Journal and Illinois Lawyer Now, in addition to the section newsletters.

The ISBA provides a number of services to its members, including legal research services and the ability to purchase malpractice insurance through the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company.

The ISBA gives out a number of rewards recognizing professional achievement in the legal profession, the most prestigious of which is the ISBA Laureate Award.

The Illinois State Bar Association’s Academy of Illinois Lawyers was founded in 1999 to recognize those who personify excellence in the legal profession. The Laureate Award, the Academy’s highest honor, is awarded to those deemed to exemplify the highest ideals of the profession.

The ISBA also sponsors a charitable wing, the Illinois Bar Foundation that promotes pro bono work and other legal work in the public interest. The association also administers the annual ISBA High School Mock Trial Invitational, a mock trial tournament for high school students, with the winning team representing Illinois at the National High School Mock Trial Championship.[2]

List of Presidents of the ISBA

Notable members

Notable members included Illinois state representative (1922-46 and 1948-50) David Ivar Swanson.


  1. ^ "About Us". Illinois State Bar Association. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  2. ^ "Mock Trial Past Winners - Illinois State Bar Association". Retrieved 18 May 2018. 
  • Illinois State Bar Association website
  • Illinois Bar Foundation website
  • ISBA Laureate Award
  • Illinois Lawyer Now blog
  • ISBA's consumer website
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