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North Carolina is home to almost 10 million people, but only about 19,000 of those residents are lawyers. The comparatively low number of attorneys in the state has led to North Carolina having one of the lowest ratios of lawyers to residents in the nation. An additional 3,100 attorneys located outside the state are licensed to practice law in North Carolina. All of these licensed lawyers in North Carolina are required to belong to the North Carolina State Bar, which serves North Carolina’s legal community both as a bar association supporting the whole of the state’s legal community and as the regulatory agency for the North Carolina legal profession.
Aside from the North Carolina State Bar, membership to all other bar associations is entirely voluntary. The other bar association in the state that serves the whole of the legal community in North Carolina is the North Carolina Bar Association, which is an entirely voluntary bar association. Since lawyers in North Carolina are not required to join the North Carolina Bar Association, only about 80 percent of North Carolina attorneys do join, but that is still a large enough number to make the North Carolina Bar Association the largest voluntary professional organization in the state. Every other bar association serving attorneys from all over North Carolina focus on one part of the state’s legal community, such as a minority group or a legal practice area. These types of bar associations that are committed to supporting a certain type of lawyer throughout North Carolina include the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, and the Real Estate Lawyers Association of North Carolina.
There are also several voluntary bar associations in North Carolina that only provide support to lawyers in a specific geographic part of the state. A number of these bar associations with geographic restrictions exist primarily to serve a single type of legal practice or minority group, such as the Capital City Lawyers Association and the Western District of North Carolina Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Other regional bar associations were created for the benefit for the whole of the legal community living and working in that specific section of North Carolina. These inclusive regional bar associations typically serve only a county or a major city in North Carolina, and they include the Durham County Bar Association, the Greensboro Bar Association, and the Mecklenburg County Bar.