Dean DietrichState Bar President Dean Dietrich makes a point during the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors meeting in Sheboygan on Friday, Sept. 22. File photo.

Feb. 26, 2024 – During a virtual meeting on Friday, February 23, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 52-member Board of Governors discussed, but took no action on, a proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 (July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2025).

Paul Marshall, the State Bar’s chief financial officer, said that the initial submission of the FY 2025 budget revealed that the State Bar faced a budget gap of about $760,000 (operational revenue minus operational expenses).

Before taking the proposed budget to the Finance Committee in December, State Bar staff fine-tuned their budget proposals. That resulted in $180,000 of adjustments.

State Bar staff then worked with the Finance Committee and the Joint Review Committee, with the Joint Review Committee reviewing all State Bar activities for prioritization, relevance, and ensuring synergy between the budget plans and the associated strategic operational plans.

From there, the Finance Committee at its December and January meetings proposed the following elements to further narrow in on reaching a breakeven budget:

  • Count on the historically sound and predictable forms of investment income – interest and dividends ($200,000); and
  • Plan on submission of a grant request to the Wisconsin Bar Stewardship Trust (WBST) in FY 2025, although not guaranteed, to help support the State Bar ethics program ($200,000).

Marshall said that if for some reason the WBST did not award the State Bar’s grant application, the State Bar would need to either manage to the lesser amount of available funding and/or dip into the State Bar’s reserves.

The budget, which was recommended unanimously by both the State Bar’s Finance Committee and the State Bar’s Executive Committee, would raise dues by 3.1%, less than the average rate of inflation in calendar year 2023, or $9. The proposed increase would raise dues from $287 to $296. The dues increase would then close the remaining $180,000 gap, Marshall said.

“I feel really strongly about this: the fact that people can pay less than $300 a year to retain their law license in the state of Wisconsin and get all the benefits the State Bar provides is amazing,” Hickey said.

“Part of our job as governors is to explain the value that our members get for $296,” Hickey said. “We are keeping dues increases in check, but we have learned the hard way that it’s not fiscally responsible to go years and years and years without raising dues and then raise them by $20 or $30.

The board will likely take action on the budget at its next meeting in April.

Margaret HickeyPast President Margaret Hickey speaks at the June 2023 Board of Governors meeting.
File photo.

Board Approves Nominating Committee

The board also approved the appointment of a special nomination committee that would choose names if a vacancy occurs in the office of president-elect.

President Dean Dietrich proposed appointing the committee as a contingency plan. He said the plan was necessary because President-elect Jane Bucher has applied for a vacancy on the Green County Circuit Court. If appointed, she cannot not serve as president-elect or president.

Dietrich said Secretary Anna F.C. Muñoz ​would chair the committee; the other members would be Governors Randy Brotherhood, Stephen Sawyer, Dennis Puzz, and Tatiana ​Shirasaki.

Bucher, who ran for a seat on the Green County Circuit Court and narrowly lost in 2021, said the decision to apply for the judgeship was a difficult one.

“It came up very suddenly and it was a very complex decision for me,” Bucher said. “It was not a decision I took lightly. Thank you for your understanding.”

Board Approves Location for 2027 AMC

The board also approved a proposal to hold the 2027 annual meeting and conference at the Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee.

Executive Director Larry Martin said the Hyatt Regency offered considerable room for the State Bar’s meeting needs and competitive rates.

The 2027 annual meeting and conference is scheduled to be held on June 9-11.

Other Business

The board also approved a request from the Health Law Section to amend its bylaws.

Members may obtain a copy of the minutes of each meeting of the Board of Governors by contacting State Bar Executive Coordinator Kim Jansen at
kjansen@wisbar.org or 608-250-6106.