About Us

The State Bar of South Dakota has over 3,000 members and 1,800 active in-state members. The State Bar is responsible to the South Dakota Supreme Court for the admission and discipline processes for all South Dakota attorneys.  The SBSD also provides continuing legal education and other member services at no cost to our membership. SBSD members are leaders in their communities and participate in education and outreach activities for their state throughout the year - including civics instruction and mock trials in public schools, pro bono legal services through local clincs and Ask-A-Lawyer, and volunteering on a variety of non-profit organization board of directors and committees. The SBSD advocates to ensure adequate support for the state court system and promotes legislation to advance the cause of justice.  The State Bar also partners with organizations and statewide agenices to ensure the delivery of legal services to all South Dakota citizens.  The State Bar is governed by a Board of Bar Commissioners, all of whom are licensed attorneys in South Dakota. SBSD promotes the interests of the legal profession and works to improve the relationship between the profession and the public.

Purpose. The aims and objects of the State Bar shall continue to be to obtain the cooperation of all the practicing lawyers in the state in the better administration of justice, and in maintaining a high standard of professional conduct at the bar, to furnish a legal entity through which the considered judgment of its members on matters affecting the judicial system of the state may be ascertained and made available to the courts and the Legislature, to uphold the honor of the profession of the law, to encourage adequate preparation for its practice, and to promote cordial intercourse among the members of the South Dakota Bar. See SDCL § 16-17-2. 

SBSD Bylaws | State Bar Handbook


Our Association history begins at the turn of the 19th century. William McKinley is inaugurated as the 25th President. Amelia Earhart and William Faulkner are born the year our Association is established. “Dracula” is published and widely popular. M.H. Cannon becomes the first woman elected to the United States Senate. Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” is first performed. The pencil sharpener is patented by J.L. Love. And Yale beats Penn State in the first known intercollegiate basketball game.

Our Association was established in December 1897. It’s first President, Mr. Bartlett Tripp.  The Charter membership of the Association was seventy-nine attorneys. The President, first Vice-President, second Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and eight circuit representatives made up the Executive Committee of the Association. Their first order of business was to prepare and submit a set of Bylaws in accordance with Article Eight of the State Constitution. The Executive Committee also established the Standing Committees of the Association and elected James Brown of Eureka as their representative to the American Bar Association. During the first year, the State Bar welcomed fifteen new attorneys to their Association and dues received totaled $180.00.  The annual membership fee was $2.tripp bartlett.png

The Association hosted their first Annual Dinner on Thursday, January 19, 1888, where the Sentiment of the evening was, “Do as Adversaries Do in Law – Strive Mightily, But Eat and Drink in Peace.” A message that continues to be relevant today.

Before assuming his role as the President of the South Dakota Bar Association in 1897, Tripp Bartlett served as the Chief Justice of the Dakota Territory Supreme Court from 1885-1889 and the 25th Ambassador to Austria from 1893-1897 under U.S. President Grover Cleveland. He was also the initial consideration for Vice-President of his best friend and law school classmate, William McKinley, but withdrew once Theodore Roosevelt entered the race. Born in Maine, Tripp Bartlett traveled to Yankton, South Dakota, to practice law with his half-brother, who had been named Surveyor General of Dakota Territory. Following the establishment of the USD law school in 1901, Tripp taught constitutional and tax law. Tripp County, the town of Tripp and Tripp Park in Yankton are all named after Tripp Bartlett.

Past Presidents Project

Strategic Plan

Beginning in 2011, dedicated members of our bar have donated time to develop a strategic plan for our bar, to monitor the progress being made in meeting the goals of that plan, and to make refinements to the plan as circumstances dictate. Below is the current vision and goals of our Strategic Plan. 

Vision: Bringing all lawyers together through our common calling of professionalism and service, the State Bar of South Dakota seeks to foster the highest quality of representation for our members’ clients and integrity in the administration of justice.

Goal One: To provide a foundation for our members to achieve professional excellence and personal fulfillment. We will achieve this by: 

  • Strategic Area 1: Offering diverse opportunities for professional development with multiple points of access to CLE, professional development and mentoring;
  • Strategic Area 2: Enriching support for lawyers with mental health issues such as depression, substance abuse or other addictions;
  • Strategic Area 3: Providing tools and resources that deepen members’ understanding of the economics of practice and help them engage in business development;
  • Strategic Area 4: Creating an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere fostering collegiality, camaraderie, civility and professionalism.

Goal Two: To provide meaningful access to justice. We will achieve this by:

  • Strategic Area 1: Expanding pro bono service among SBSD members;
  • Strategic Area 2: Ensuring secure and stable funding for legal services and Access to Justice;
  • Strategic Area 3: Facilitating greater coordination among the state’s legal services and pro bono service agencies;
  • Strategic Area 4: Focusing on the need to have adequate legal services in rural areas and Indian Country.

Goal Three: To have a fair and impartial judiciary that provides affordable, timely justice and instills public trust and confidence in the judicial system. We will achieve this by:

  • Strategic Area 1: Educating members, the public and political leaders;
  • Strategic Area 2: Reducing the costs and increasing the efficiency of litigation;
  • Strategic Area 3: Preserving judicial excellence.

Goal Four: To provide opportunities for lawyers and the public to connect to prevent and solve problems and serve the public interest. We will achieve this by:

  • Strategic Area 1: Engaging in public education and outreach;
  • Strategic Area 2: Establishing a lawyer referral service that connects the clients with lawyers and pertinent consumer legal information.

Goal Five: To have the communications, operational and governance infrastructure to support the strategic plan and our vision. We will achieve this by:

  • Strategic Area 1: Adhering to good governance practices;
  • Strategic Area 2: Engaging in more intentional board and leadership development;
  • Strategic Area 3: Developing a comprehensive, integrated plan for communicating and marketing to membership;
  • Strategic Area 4: Developing financial processes, revenue streams and staffing models that support the strategic plan.

Current Operational Plan