How Many State Bar Associations Should You Join If You Practice Law?

If you are in the legal profession yourself, then you have joined one of the most interesting lines of work the country has to offer. Laws are often what define things, be it rights, responsibilities, corporate existence, property boundaries, and a million other things that form the building blocks of American society. Lawyers are sometimes thought of as a necessary evil, but in truth, society relies on them to keep everything balanced and in order, with some looking to maintain order for all, with others stepping up when need be and maintaining the rights of the few.

If you practice professionally, then you have to join a state bar association in order to legally be permitted to be a lawyer in that state. Each state has its own bar association, so if you want to practice in the city and county you live in, then membership into that organization is mandatory to do before anything else, other than the study of law itself. Practicing without a bar association license or certification is against the law pretty much everywhere, and punishable by time in prison.

So, it seems obvious to join the state bar association where you live and work, and you’re ready to go, right? If you live in a city that is entirely in one state and not close to the borders or boundaries of the state, then you’re probably set. However, many cases or situations can complicate factors.

Consider a city like New York City, which straddles the border of New York state and New Jersey. If you want to be truly beneficial to your clients and land the most work, you need to be a member of both state bar associations so that your work does not stop at the Hudson River.

Another example where multiple state bar associations might make sense would be a place like Charlotte, North Carolina. It sits right on the edge of the state, and a significant portion of the metropolitan population works in Charlotte but lives in the South Carolina cities or towns of Fort Mill, Rock Hill, and Tega Cay. Anything from child custody disputes to professional matters might mean needing to be able to practice in both states.

If you are fortunate enough to have truly wealthy clients that might want your services as they travel, state bar association membership in farther away states might make sense too.