As chairperson of the State Bar’s Finance Committee, members ask me about the Bar’s financial condition and how they can learn more about how the Bar spends their dues dollars. While I am always happy to answer your questions, just as the State Bar’s senior staff is always available to answer your questions, information about the State Bar’s finances are readily available to all members of the association.
Nicholas J. Vivian, Hamline 2003, is chair of the State Bar Finance Committee. He practices in Hudson with Eckberg, Lammers, Briggs, Wolff & Vierling PLLP.
Even though the State Bar of Wisconsin is a mandatory membership association, only about forty percent of its income comes from membership dues. While members are charged nearly $500 each year, only $224 of that amount is for membership dues. The rest of the money is distributed to agencies and specific recipients of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. These include the Office of Lawyer Regulation, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Wisconsin Fund for Client Protection, and the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation. Of course, the voluntary part of your dues and assessments, whether section dues, division dues, or a contribution to the Wisconsin Law Foundation, goes directly to those organizations.
In terms of providing financial information directly to members, each month’s financial statement is provided directly to the State Bar’s Finance Committee, which is appointed each year by the State Bar President, and to the Executive Committee and to the Board of Governors. The quarterly financial statements also are posted on the State Bar website after review by the Finance Committee. Those reports, reaching back two years, are available at www.wisbar.org/formembers/groups/governance/FinanceCommittee/Pages/Home.aspx. In addition, you will also find the approved minutes of the Finance Committee at that location. The Finance Committee chair reports on the financial condition of the State Bar directly to the Executive Committee and to the Board of Governors at each of their meetings.
Section boards, which govern the various State Bar sections, receive their financial statements each month. Their statements may or may not be posted on their website, at the discretion of the section board. Each division and each committee also receive financial reports on a monthly basis.
“The State Bar strives for fiscal transparency. Information about the association’s finances is readily available to every member.”
Additionally, the State Bar is audited every year by an independent certified public accounting firm. The auditing process and the audit are reviewed by the State Bar’s Audit Committee, which is appointed by the Board of Governors. The Audit Committee then reports to the Finance Committee and to the Board of Governors on the Bar’s financial statements. Copies of the audit are made available to all the members of those bodies, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the most recent three audits are available on the State Bar website on the Finance Committee webpage. The audit also is summarized and reported to the entire membership as part of the annual report.
Finally, you can receive any and all financial information that falls within the Board of Governors’ Access to Records Policy by contacting the State Bar Executive Director George Brown or the State Bar Assistant Executive Director and Finance Director Lynda Tanner. A copy of the Access to Records Policy is readily available upon request.
The State Bar strives for fiscal transparency. If at any time you have questions regarding the fiscal condition of the State Bar, please contact me, George Brown, or Lynda Tanner.