Our History

The Philadelphia Bar Association, founded in 1802, is America's first chartered metropolitan bar association. Its founders and early leaders included several of the nation's founders. It was originally formed by a small group of Philadelphia lawyers who gathered together to share law books and professional resources. Founded as the Law Library Company of Philadelphia it was later incorporated as the Law Association and then the Bar Association. Over the years its members have included some of the nation's most prominent lawyers, judges, public servants, business, civic and community leaders.

It's hard to talk about Philadelphia without talking about Philadelphia lawyers.

And the Bar Association has forever been associated with the term "Philadelphia Lawyer." The term actually predates the nation's founding, having its origins in 1735 when Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Hamilton traveled to New York City to defend a poor printer, John Peter Zenger. Hamilton actually acted pro bono and accepted a case that no New York lawyer would take on. Defending Zenger against charges of sedition brought by the crown, Hamilton won the case and, in so doing, established the concept of freedom of the press more than 50 years before the First Amendment. It was said that when the jury returned its verdict those in the galleries exclaimed: "Only a Philadelphia lawyer could have done it!" Ever since then the term "Philadelphia lawyer" has come to characterize a particularly adept lawyer: more clever; craftier; a lawyer who will find a way to prevail for his/her client. Today the Philadelphia Bar Association counts 13,000 members including the Mayor of Philadelphia and the Governor of Pennsylvania. With a strong sense of social responsibility and community purpose the Bar
Association funds numerous law-related public interest programs through its charitable arm, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation. Likewise, Philadelphia lawyers contribute millions of dollars worth of in-kind services annually to various groups and agencies pro bono publico (for the good of the public). The Association also maintains communications and "sister city" relationships with other bar associations throughout the United States and around the world.

The Philadelphia Bar Association is proud to represent lawyers who are heirs to America's founders in the city where America was born. It's commitment to liberty and justice to all lies at the heart of the Association's mission: to serve the profession and the public by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law. In so doing, the Association strives to foster understanding of, involvement in and access to the justice system.