The State Bar of Wisconsin is a professional association dedicated to improving the administration of justice and the delivery of legal services and to promote the professional interests of Wisconsin lawyers.
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.
On Jan. 9, 2003, the State Bar of Wisconsin celebrated its 125th anniversary. The year 2003 also marked another significant milestone in Wisconsin's legal history: the Wisconsin Supreme Court 150th anniversary.
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 mission of the State Bar of Wisconsin is defined in SCR 10.02 (2).
The purposes of the association are to aid the courts in carrying on and improving the administration of justice; to foster and maintain on the part of those engaged in the practice of law high ideals of integrity, learning, competence and public service and high standards of conduct; to safeguard the proper professional interests of the members of the bar; to encourage the formation and activities of local bar associations; to conduct a program of continuing legal education; to assist or support legal education programs at the preadmission level; to provide a forum for the discussion of subjects pertaining to the practice of law, the science of jurisprudence and law reform and the relations of the bar to the public and to publish information relating thereto; to carry on a continuing program of legal research in the technical fields of substantive law, practice and procedure and make reports and recommendations thereon within legally permissible limits; to promote the innovation, development and improvement of means to deliver legal services to the people of Wisconsin; to the end that the public responsibility of the legal profession may be more effectively discharged.