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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 clinics 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 agencies 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.


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.


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.

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, Bartlett Tripp 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, Bartlett Tripp 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 Bartlett Tripp.

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.


The State Bar of South Dakota is an invaluable partner in every attorney’s practice, and a trusted community leader that ensures the justice system is evolving to meet the needs of all South Dakota residents.

Organizational Values

These core values direct how the State Bar of South Dakota conducts itself as it works to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission.

Integrity: We will strive to earn and maintain your trust.

Professionalism: We respect the rule of law and promote ethical conduct, personal integrity and civility in all our deliberations and decisions.

Diversity and Inclusion: We recognize we are more effective when we bring different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds to our collective activities and decision making.

Transparency: We will strive to promote openness, communication and accountability.

Responsiveness: We will provide excellent service and adjust to the changing needs of members and the public.

Compassion: We will treat one another with understanding and kindness.

Collaboration: We will create alliances that allow us to achieve a greater impact with our limited resources.

Innovation: We will continually explore and advance new ways to provide excellent service to members and the public.

State Bar of South Dakota 2019-2024 Strategic Plan

Goal 1: The State Bar of South Dakota promotes a diverse and inclusive legal profession that competently serves South Dakota

We will achieve this goal by:

  1. Assisting the Unified Judicial System to effectively regulate the profession
  2. Supporting member competence, civility and continuing professional development
  3. Strategically partnering with the University of South Dakota School of Law to meet the state’s legal needs
  4. Building a profession that reflects the diversity of South Dakota
  5. Pursuing legislative advocacy that supports the bar’s mission and purpose


Goal 2: The State Bar of South Dakota supports lawyers’ pursuit of personal and professional satisfaction in the practice of law

We will achieve this goal by:

  1. Equipping lawyers to adapt to and compete in the changing legal environment
  2. Fostering a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment that enhances collegiality, civility and professionalism
  3. Focusing on lawyer wellness and increasing resources to support lawyers with mental health issues including depression, substance abuse and other addictions


Goal 3: The State Bar of South Dakota assures access to legal information and services for all South Dakota residents

We will achieve this goal by:

  1. Identifying barriers to access
  2. Facilitating a more comprehensive approach to legal services delivery in South Dakota
  3. Exploring innovative practice models that would increase the accessibility and affordability of legal services
  4. Supporting specialty, tribal, state and federal courts to improve the administration of justice

Goal 4: The State Bar of South Dakota builds public trust in the justice system, the legal profession and the law

We will achieve this goal by:

  1. Collaborating with the UJS and USD Knudson School of Law to build awareness of the legal profession as an accessible, meaningful, and rewarding career path
  2. Providing lawyers with opportunities to lead and serve in their communities
  3. Raising the public’s awareness of individual’s legal rights and our governmental institutions

Goal 5: The State Bar of South Dakota builds a responsive, transparent and forward-looking organization that advances its mission and the strategic plan

We will achieve this goal by:

  1. Employing board governance practices that support broad-based decision making and timely action
  2. Enhancing our technology infrastructure to meet the current and future needs of members and the bar
  3. Ensuring the bar’s critical functions receive appropriate staff support
  4. Building awareness of SBSD programs and initiatives through a variety of effective communication channels
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