The Dane County Bar Association shares with the Milwaukee Bar Association the honor of being the oldest bar organization in Wisconsin, both predating the State Bar of Wisconsin by some twenty years. Because it contains the State Capitol, Dane County always has been particularly attractive to lawyers. Some of the leading figures in Wisconsinís legal and political history have been Association members.

During the Association's existence the American legal profession, like American society, has undergone dramatic and continuing change. New areas of legal practice have arisen regularly, faded with the technologies and businesses that gave them birth, and have been succeeded by other specialized areas of practice. Throughout all of these changes, the Dane County Bar Association has played a modest but important role in helping its members understand and adjust to these developments and to the changing needs of the society they serve.

Madison was founded in 1836 in a thinly populated area of south central Wisconsin. Both the City of Madison and its legal community grew steadily in the years that followed. By the late 1800s approximately 50 lawyers practiced in Madison. The Dane County Bar Association was founded in July, 1858, with an initial membership of 15 lawyers. The object of the Association was to promote social and professional fellowship among its members and to improve the quality and reputation of the bar.