The PBA was established in July 1997 as a unified body and one entity and was formed from three existing bodies engaged in the legal environment; these are the Arab Lawyers Committee in the West Bank, the Jordanian Bar Association- Jerusalem and the Lawyers Society in Gaza. The new entity is governed by Law no. 3 of 1999 and the amending law no.5 of 1999. Initially it was run by a founding board until the first elections of July 2003 where a new elected board of 15 persons took over. Elections were held subsequently in April 2005 and April 2007.
The goals of the PBA as enacted by the law of 1999 are summarized below:
Defend the interest of the association and lawyers, protect the legal profession and ensure the rights of lawyers according to legal principles,
Promote principles of rule of law and human rights,
Organize the efforts of members to contribute to the development of legal principles and legislations in support of justice, rights and progression,
Promote and encourage legal research and upgrade the professional and educational level of members,
Provide economic, social and cultural services to its members, arrange for old age retirement, compensation for disability and death and ensure health services provision,
Establish a retirement fund for lawyers,
Establish a cooperative fund to enhancer cooperation.
Promote cooperation in practicing the profession and provide pro bono judicial assistance to citizens who cannot afford it.
At present and according to the PBA records, there is around 2,429 practicing members and trainees in the West Bank of which about 873 trainees compared to 760 registered lawyers in 1998. The PBA estimates that about 200-250 persons graduate each year from law schools.
Due to the physical separation between the West Bank and Gaza, the PBA board members in both areas have been unable to meet in person for the last three years. Several meetings were held over the video conference but have proved to be unreliable and ineffective.
Current governance structure
The PBA board consists of 15 elected members, nine seats allocated for the northern district (West Bank) and six seats in the southern district (Gaza Strip). The PBA board is supported by regional/branch committees appointed by the board and headed by a board member. There is no rule or criteria for the composition of the branch committees; generally they are from three members (one board member and 2 other lawyers from the branch area). Some committees as in Al Eizariyah, Dura, Halhoul, Tubas and Salfit are composed from a sole member. Fourteen branch committees exist in the northern district in areas of Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, Jenin, Toulkarm, Qalqilya, Salfit, Tubas, Al Eizariyah, Dura and Halhoul, and two in Gaza Strip, Gaza and Khan Younis. There are also 13 specialized committees supposedly supporting the PBA in undertaking its mandate in areas of finance, companies, complaints, profession affairs, training, anti normalization, legal, PR, freedom and human rights, culture, compensation, women affairs, social. The same committees are replicated in Gaza Strip.
The PBA has two main offices, one in Gaza covering Gaza Strip and one in Ramallah covering the West Bank. There are five branch offices in areas of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Toulkarm, Jenin and three additional offices were recently established in Toubas, Doura, Halhoul and two offices in Gaza and Khan-Younis. The PBA has 12 staff members in Ramallah main office and 12 employed in branch offices. In addition, it employs 6 staff members in Gaza Strip.