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New ABA Membership Strategy Aims to Reverse Slide (1)

May 1, 2019, 3:10 PMUpdated: May 1, 2019, 7:12 PM

The American Bar Association’s new look and membership model are the result of years of strategizing aimed at reversing declining membership and revenue.

The ABA hopes to attract more than 83,000 dues-paying members over the first four years of the new approach that offers a simpler payment structure, more continuing legal education courses, and access to its legal practice divisions at no extra cost.

“We realized we need to do things differently, including articulating our value propositions better,” to help turn things around, ABA Executive Director Jack Rives said of the effort that includes a new logo and took effect May 1.

And “a different look can be one of the things that causes people to take a new look,” Rives said.

Half of the lawyers in the U.S. were ABA members 40 years ago compared to about 20 percent now. As of July 2018, dues revenue was down $1.3 million from the previous year, and only about 185,000 of the almost 400,000 members paid them, according to the association.

This is due to the fact that three years ago, it offered free membership to law students and there are 112,000 law student members, Rives said.

Attorneys who take a new look will see a new dues structure that establishes five ABA membership price points with rates for new lawyers beginning at $75 per year and maxing out at $450 per year for lawyers who’ve been practicing for 20 or more years. The old model had 157 different price points.

The ABA will also increase the number of CLE courses available to all members as a benefit, which comes to about 450 now, according to the website. By next year, there will be 650, Rives said.

Members will be able to join the Law Practice Division and the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division at no additional cost and access all content generated by those divisions, a press release said.

In addition, attorneys will will have access to a wide range of content from the Center for Professional Responsibility, Rives said.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Crawley at