When new bar leaders—elected as well as executive staff—begin attending national meetings, they are hit by a barrage of acronyms that leave them baffled and bewildered, unless they have been prepped. So for all the novices, here’s your cheat sheet to the shorthand of bar leadership lingo, presented in the order of “most frequently used” to “nice to know.” In learning these acronyms, you’ll also learn about bar-related organizations that you may have wondered about.
Nationwide bar groups
First, there are several organizations that bring together bar leaders from all over the country. They are:
NCBP—National Conference of Bar Presidents. The membership organization for present, future, and past bar presidents, NCBP’s primary purpose is education. Through its biannual meetings in conjunction with the ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings, NCBP provides high-quality programming on issues of concern to bar leaders at state, local, and national bar associations. Membership is on an organizational as well as an individual basis.
NABE—National Association of Bar Executives. NABE is the membership organization for professional staff of bar associations and law-related organizations, promoting and supporting excellence and professionalism among bar executives. In addition to its biannual meetings during the ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings, NABE presents section-sponsored workshops for staff specialists that supplement general educational programs. Membership is on an individual basis, with discounts for multiple members of a bar association.
NCBF—National Conference of Bar Foundations. NCBF provides a medium for professional staff, officers, and board members of bar foundations to exchange ideas and information related to best practices in the area of bar foundation management, fundraising, and public service programming. NCBF meets in conjunction with both NABE and NCBP at ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings. Membership is on an organizational as well as an individual basis.
MBC—Metropolitan Bar Caucus. MBC supplements the educational programming offered by NCBP, with a specific focus on metro bar matters. Membership is by organization and the caucus welcomes both executives and officers of bar associations with membership in excess of 1,500. Targeted programming is offered on Friday afternoons during Midyear and Annual Meetings of NCBP.
National minority bar associations
Next, there are several nationwide bar associations that represent lawyers of specific racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. They are:
HNBA—Hispanic National Bar Association. HNBA represents the interests of more than 25,000 Hispanic American lawyers, judges, law professors, and law students in the United States and Puerto Rico. Its primary objectives are to increase professional opportunities for Hispanics in the legal profession and address issues of concern to the national Hispanic community.
NAPABA—National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. The only national association of Asian Pacific American lawyers, NAPABA advocates for the legal needs and interests of the APA community. It provides a national network for its members and affiliates, representing over 40,000 attorneys in 45 local APA bar associations.
NBA—National Bar Association. The oldest and largest national association of predominately African American lawyers and judges, the NBA represents a professional network of more than 20,000 lawyers, judges, educators, and law students. It has 84 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and affiliations in Canada, the United Kingdom, Africa, and the Caribbean.
NNABA—National Native American Bar Association. The national association for Native American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students, NNABA promotes issues important to the Native American community and works to improve professional opportunities for Native American lawyers.
There are certain groups within the structure of the ABA that are of interest to leaders of other bar associations. These include:
SCOBAS—Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services.The Standing Committee serves as the “eyes and ears” of the ABA in its relations with state and local bar associations and foundations. The committee works closely with the Division for Bar Services in its liaison efforts and, among its responsibilities, sponsors the annual Bar Leadership Institute and the ABA Partnership Awards Program.
SOC—Section Officers Conference. First convened by ABA Section and Division chairs as an informal body in 1977, SOC was a forum for inter-section communication and action, and selected section representatives to the ABA Board of Governors. In 1984, SOC was officially recognized and mandated by ABA bylaws, and the House of Delegates adopted the “Beckham Amendment,” which dramatically expanded section representation in the governance of the association. SOC holds a leadership meeting in the fall and business meetings at ABA Annual and Midyear Meetings.
NCSBA—National Caucus of State Bar Associations. A nonprofit unincorporated association, the National Caucus is comprised of the state bar associations of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the territorial bar associations with representation in the ABA House of Delegates, and the six regional state bar conferences. Each member organization has two delegates to the Caucus and meets during the Midyear and Annual Meetings of the ABA. The Caucus provides an educational forum for sharing information regarding items of interest to state bar associations that will be considered by the ABA House of Delegates. On occasion, it may take positions on issues that may be considered by the House.
There are also organizations that give bar leaders from specific regions of the country a chance to get together and share ideas. They are:
NEBA—New England Bar Association. Composed of bar leaders from the six New England states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), NEBA’s board meets three or four times during the year and holds an annual meeting in the fall. Formed in 1969, NEBA tracks federal legislation and takes joint stands on issues that the six states have in common.
MABC—Mid-Atlantic Bar Conference. Six state bars (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) banded together in 1979 to form the newest of the state bar regional conferences. Besides its annual conference in the fall, the group holds a breakfast meeting at ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings to review reports before the ABA House of Delegates.
SCBP—Southern Conference of Bar Presidents. The largest of the state bar regional conferences, with 21 bars from 17 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia), Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, SCBP conducts an annual meeting as well as business meetings at the ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings. Established in its current format in 1969, SCBP takes stands on issues and occasionally adopts resolutions in addition to providing educational programming.
WSBC—Western States Bar Conference. Established in 1949, the WSBC is the oldest of the regional state bar conferences and has a membership of 17 state and territorial bars (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Northern Marianas Islands). It meets once a year after the ABA Midyear Meeting. A standard feature of its annual meeting is the roll call of the states.
Great Rivers Bar Leaders Conference. Formerly known as the Midwest Regional Conference of State Bar Leaders, the Great Rivers Conference formed in 1972 and is composed of eight state bars (Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin). The Conference sponsors an annual meeting and informal dinners at ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings.
Jackrabbit Bar Conference. Formally known as the Association of the Bars of the Northwest Plains and Mountains, the Jackrabbit bar comprises eight member states (Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming). It is the least formal of the state bar regional conferences, meeting once a year, generally in a remote resort location.
GLOBE—Great Lakes Organization of Bar Executives. The only local bar regional conference, GLOBE grew out of joint meetings of local bar executives from Ohio and Michigan and expanded to include officers and executives from neighboring lake-located city/county bars and invited Midwestern city bars. GLOBE generally holds an annual conference in the fall and meets at ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings.
Bring this guide with you to future meetings and you’ll feel right at home in any conversation!