In the Beginning:
Before the creation of the Section of Business Law (the “Section”), the ABA handled business law through the Standing Committee on Commercial Law and Bankruptcy. Then, in 1938, the Section of Commercial Law was created, which was the precursor to the Section of Business Law.
In 1939-1940, the first year of operation for the Section, there was a chairman, vice chairman, secretary, eight council members, and four committees. Two of these committees were administrative (Cooperation with other Committees and Sections, and Membership), and two of these committees were substantive, dealing with bankruptcy subjects.
The Section began running financially lean. Its fifth year, the Section had 725 members. The Section began the year with a deficit of $250 but then ended the year with a surplus of $744. Now, a surplus budget is a long-established tradition of the Section.
There are four principles that have guided the Section in its early years that are still with us today:
The Section looks at commercial law in its broadest sense;
The Section studies problems of today, as well as identifying new areas of developing business law;
The Section gives impartial consideration to drafting law without regard to how the law will affect clients; and
The Section runs financially lean.
In 1943, the name of the Section of Commercial Law was changed to the” Section of Corporation, Banking and Mercantile Law.” In 1947, the Section tossed the word “mercantile” in favor of “business,” so the Section now was named the “Section of Corporation, Banking and Business Law.” Finally, in 1988, the Section adopted its current moniker, the “Section of Business Law.”
A few highlights along the way:
In 1939, the Chandler Act was adopted, which completely revamped federal insolvency law. Not surprisingly, a good deal of the Section’s efforts went into drafting that legislation. After its adoption, the Section went out of its way to explain the Chandler Act through educational programs.
Block protect turned off here. Block protect turned off here.
In July, 1946, the first issue of The Business Lawyer was published. The July issue had only 16 pages; the next issue had only eight pages!
Today – 1998:
From its humble beginnings, the Section today has more than 50,000 members, 52 committees, 348 subcommittees, 18 working groups, 42 task forces, 15 ad hoc committees, 30 officer and council members, two regular publications – The Business Lawyer, which began in 1946, and Business Law Today, which began in 1992 – and also a full array of practical, up-to-date publications, including books.
Today, the Section is known for its up-to-the minute analysis of all segments of commercial law, from corporate securities to bankruptcy.
At the Annual Meeting in Toronto in August, 1998, the Section celebrated its 60-Year Anniversary.