HISTORY

The Cumberland Bar Association is one of the oldest organized bar associations in the United States. Continuous records for the Association exist back to November 1866.  That year the great Portland fire destroyed earlier records along with the Association’s law library. However, a frayed and age-worn pamphlet, possessed by a former secretary of the Association, provides evidence that Portland attorneys were organized as early as March 13, 1829, just nine years after Maine became a State. The pamphlet, entitled “Rules and Regulations of the Bar in the County of Cumberland,” lists 40 active members and 9 associate members, including William Pitt Fessenden, once the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and Stephen W. Longfellow, father of the poet Henry W. Longfellow.  The Association currently has about 600 regular and honorary members.

Historically, a primary function of the Cumberland Bar Association was the oversight of the Henry and Nathan B. Cleaves Law Library, the law library for Cumberland County. On July 3, 1996, the membership of the Association voted to convert the library into a separate non-profit corporation. This action permitted the library to receive gifts and bequests to increase its endowments and to be eligible for public and private grant and foundation awards. On January 1, 1997, the library became a separate corporate entity and was later approved for non-profit status.

Today, in accordance with our Mission Statement, the Association sponsors many social and educational functions, including continuing legal education seminars, an annual summer picnic with golf and tennis tournaments, receptions for judges and new attorneys, and an Annual Meeting. The Association also continues to provide financial support to Cleaves Law Library and periodically provides grants for other law-related events.

Membership in the Cumberland Bar Association is open to any person licensed to practice law in the State of Maine. Justices and judges may be elected honorary members of the Association. Officers and General Committee members are elected at the Association’s Annual Meeting.

To view a copy of the Cumberland Bar Association Bylaws, click here.