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The State Bar of Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Bar was organized on Jan. 9, 1878, as a voluntary association. After reorganization in 1947, the Wisconsin Bar opened its first full-time staffed office on Dec. 1, 1948, and services to members increased markedly. In June 1956 the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the Bar integrated, with membership a condition for the practice of law in Wisconsin. Membership and services immediately zoomed, with 6,700 lawyers enrolled by 1967.

In February 1988 a federal district court decision ruled unconstitutional the Wisconsin Supreme Court's requirement that all lawyers join the State Bar as a condition of practicing law in this state. Following that decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the mandatory membership rule. The district court ruling has been overturned, and it is permissible for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to require Wisconsin lawyers to join the State Bar of Wisconsin as a condition of practicing law in Wisconsin. On March 10, 1992, following a public hearing on the State Bar Board of Governors' petition to reinstate the integrated bar, the supreme court ordered the mandatory membership requirement reinstated, effective July 1, 1992. Nearly 87 percent of the lawyers in Wisconsin chose to become voluntary members of the State Bar.

The American Bar Association has long considered the State Bar of Wisconsin to be one of the most innovative, productive and service-oriented bars in the country. This distinction has been attributed to the strong volunteerism Wisconsin lawyers exercise in their work with committees, sections and divisions.

The Board of Governors manages and directs the affairs of the State Bar of Wisconsin. There are 49 members on the Board of Governors, including the association's five officers and the immediate past president. Thirty-four members are elected from the l6 State Bar districts. Each is a single-member district except for Milwaukee County, which has l3 members, Dane County which has six members, and Waukesha County which has two members. In addition, the Supreme Court appoints three nonlawyer members to the board, and the Government Lawyers Division, Young Lawyers Division, and Senior Lawyers Division each select one member, while the Nonresident Lawyers Division selects three members to sit on the board. There are also five Building Bridges Liaisons appointed to the Board of Governors.

The Executive Committee consists of the president, president-elect, the immediate past president, the chairperson of the Board of Governors, one representative each from the Nonresident Lawyers Division, Government Lawyers Division, Young Lawyers Division, and Senior Lawyers Division selected from their Board of Governors representatives and six additional members elected annually by the Board of Governors. The Executive Committee has all the powers and is authorized to perform all the duties of the Board of Governors between the meetings of the board, except the Executive Committee may not amend the bylaws, make rules or regulations governing nominations or elections, prescribe regulations for proceedings before grievance committees, or initiate the taking of any referendum or poll of members of the association.

The Finance Committee consists of the president, president-elect, the immediate past president, treasurer, CLE committee chairperson and four additional members appointed annually by the president. The Finance Committee advises the Board of Governors on financial matters and usually offers a report at each board meeting. The committee also reviews the annual budget proposed by the executive director.

Saving you time and money, keeping you up to date, and helping you get ahead are just three of the many ways the State Bar of Wisconsin is working to help you meet the many professional challenges facing Wisconsin lawyers. From books and periodicals to conventions and legal information hotlines, the State Bar is your one-stop resource for the tools you need to enhance your practice.

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