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About the New York City Bar Association

42 West 44th Street

The New York City Bar Association (City Bar), founded in 1870, is a voluntary association of lawyers and law students. Since 1896, the organization, officially known as the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, has been headquartered in a landmark building on 44th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan. Today the City Bar has over 24,000 members. Its current president, Debra L. Raskin, began her two-year term in May 2014.

The City Bar was founded in 1870 in response to growing public concern over corruption in the justice system in New York City.

Several of its early officers, including William M. Evarts and Samuel Tilden, were active in seeking the removal of corrupt judges and in leading prosecutions of the notorious Tweed Ring. It counted many of the country’s most prominent lawyers among its officers, including Elihu Root, Charles Evans Hughes, and Samuel Seabury. By the 1960s, under the leadership of presidents Bernard Botein and Francis T.P. Plimpton, the Association became an increasingly democratic organization, easing restrictions on membership and actively engaging in social issues. The Association hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Chief Justice Earl Warren, among others, and actively campaigned for policy initiatives. It also played an important role in two controversial confirmation battles in the United States Supreme Court, over G. Harrold Carswell in 1970 and Robert Bork in 1987.

From the 1980s onward, the City Bar has continued to diversify its membership with active recruitment efforts among women and minorities and to expand its involvement in access to justice initiatives, international human rights, and pro bono representation in many areas, including immigration, AIDS, homelessness, and criminal justice.

The City Bar's mission is as follows:

  • Harnessing the expertise of the legal profession to identify and address legal and public policy issues in ways that promote law reform, ethics and the fair and effective administration of justice, and a respect for the rule of law at home and abroad.
  • Elevating the profession by enhancing diversity and encouraging appropriate standards of professional and judicial ethics, competence, civility and integrity.
  • Addressing unmet legal needs, especially the needs of traditionally disadvantaged groups and individuals.
  • Mobilizing the legal profession to engage in activities that promote social justice, human rights, and democratic values and principles.
  • Supporting individual attorneys through professional development, assistance, continuing legal education, programs, written reports, presentations of professional and public interest, networking and career opportunities, and service on committees.

The City Bar has over 150 committees that focus on legal practice areas and issues. Through reports, amicus briefs, testimony, statements and letters drafted by committee members, the City Bar comments on public policy and legislation. The committees also produce hundreds of events per year.

The City Bar’s Legislative Affairs department acts as a liaison between the committees and the New York State Legislature and New York City Council.

The City Bar's Judiciary Committee evaluates candidates for judgeships on New York City's courts, and announces its finding of either "Approved" or "Not Approved." The City Bar's Executive Committee, working with the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction, evaluates candidates for New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, issuing a finding of "Well Qualified, "Not Well Qualified" or "Exceptionally Well Qualified." The Executive Committee, working with the Judiciary Committee, also considers the qualifications of the President's nominees to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, issuing a finding of "Qualified," "Unqualified," or "Highly Qualified."

Through its nonprofit affiliates, the City Bar Justice Center and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, the City Bar provides pro bono legal services in New York City and supports the creation and expansion of pro bono and access to justice in other countries.

The City Bar’s member services include career development workshops; networking events; a Small Law Firm Center; the Lawyer Assistance Program, which provides free counseling for members and their families struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues; a law library; discounts on Continuing Legal Education courses; insurance and other benefits; and contact info for the City Bar’s 24,000 members.

The City Bar Center for Continuing Legal Education is an accredited provider in the States of New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois, offering over 150 live programs a year, as well as audio and video tapes, for members and non-members.

The Legal Referral Service, jointly sponsored by the City Bar and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, provides free initial telephone consultation to the public, as well as a free referral to experienced, pre-screened lawyers with expertise in a wide range of specialties.

in the justice system