Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics profiles three professional associations to explore the business, industry, governmental and not-for-profit agencies impacting law, commerce and goodwill across the state. The magazine tells their stories to give readers a better understanding of who they are, where they stand and the positions they are backing.
Arkansas Bar Association
The Arkansas Bar Association (ArkBar) is a voluntary bar association that has served the legal profession since 1898. With roughly 5,300 members, ArkBar strives to represent all of its members by providing services that support the practice of law and promotes the profession, such as furnishing updates on recent case law, and regulatory and legislative changes that directly affect the practice of law.
“Unity of purpose is important to the legal profession,” said Executive Director Karen K. Hutchins. “The energy and momentum created by lawyers of varied backgrounds, age, gender, race and geographic location enable the association to serve lawyers in a way that is not possible without the unity that occurs when a group focuses on common objectives.
“While the tangible member benefits, such as free quality legal research, are worth more to a member than the cost of dues, the intangible value of the relationships that are formed are priceless,” she added.
Since the legal profession is moving toward more virtual communities, the community of lawyers found in the association is more important now than ever. The association serves as a central point of engagement for participating in pro bono work, educating the public about legal issues and helping to maintain the integrity of the legal profession.
ArkBar is building community leaders throughout the state through leadership training and public service opportunities. ArkBar recently created a Public Service Academy, a program developed for member lawyers who wish to serve in public service on the local, state or federal level.
ArkBar members also give back to their communities. The Law Related Education committee helps with high school mock trial competitions and sends volunteers into classrooms to teach civics. Members also participate in Wills for Heroes legal clinics, offer disaster relief legal assistance and volunteer for AR Free Legal Answers. They also create free legal pamphlets for the public, including “18 & Life to Go: A Legal Handbook for Young Arkansans.”
One of the biggest issues facing the legal community in Arkansas is ensuring that the public has access to a fair administration of justice. It is more important than ever to make legal services easily available and affordable through technology. Virtual law practices continue to expand the ability to obtain legal services more quickly. The unbundling of legal services provides the ability to hire an attorney for parts of a legal issue, which in turn offers the public new and more affordable options.
As part of its mission, ArkBar focuses on improving the legal system in Arkansas, assisting in the enactment of laws and serving as the trusted and collective voice at the State Capitol. ArkBar is unique in that every bill filed and every law passed directly impacts its members and the practice of law. The group works full time to monitor legislative and regulatory issues affecting the administration of justice and the practice of law on behalf of its members.
The Arkansas Bar Association has been supporting Arkansas families and businesses across the state for over 120 years. Lawyers pledge to serve the public when taking the attorney oath of admission, and this association provides a unique way for lawyers to do that.