On July 8, 1886, fifty-seven attorneys gathered at the Court House in Grafton, West Virginia. A Hardy County attorney, Joseph Sprigg stated that the purpose of this meeting was to “organize a State Bar Association, to be composed of all the Attorneys in good standing in the State who see proper to join us.” Officers were then elected and an Executive Council was formed, as well as committees that were assigned to research and report on topics of interest to the Bar.
One member from each judicial district was appointed to the committees on: Legal Education; Judicial Administration and Legal Reform; Admission; Grievances; and Legal Biography. These committees, along with an Executive Committee composed of five members, the President, a Vice President from each judicial district represented by a member of The WVBA, and the Secretary, administered the affairs of The WVBA.
While the basic structure of The WVBA has changed it is now comprised of five divisions:
During the early years, it was difficult to persuade West Virginia attorneys that membership was valuable, but The Bar offered an opportunity for attorneys to cooperate to improve laws, to take advantage of continuing education, to keep abreast of the latest court decisions, and to set forth a legislative agenda to make important changes for the legal process in West Virginia.
Proving to be valuable is what The WVBA continues to do today by providing intellectual and social pursuits that increase knowledge and collegiality among the bench and bar.
The first annual meeting was held in Berkeley Springs in July 1887 and increasing legal educational requirements was the main item on the agenda. The WVBA started with forty-three dues paying member that first year and has now grown to nearly one thousand members. The WVBA is the oldest legal bar in WV and among the oldest in the USA.