This Chapter will describe, first, the basic requirements to earn a Doctor of Laws (J.D.) degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Then it will address the requirements for Diploma Privilege in Wisconsin (the privilege to practice law in Wisconsin without taking the Wisconsin Bar Examination) (see 4.6 below). Finally, it will briefly discuss some procedures a UW Law graduate needs to know when applying for bar admission in a state other than Wisconsin (see 4.12 below). Contact the Law School Registrar at Registrar@law.wisc.edu with any questions or concerns regarding the Diploma Privilege and Graduation course requirements.
Although the vast majority of students who earn J.D. degrees from the Law School also meet the requirements for the Wisconsin Diploma Privilege, it is important to note that the actual J.D. degree requirements are not identical to the Diploma Privilege requirements. Indeed, it is possible to receive a J.D. degree and not meet the Diploma Privilege requirements. In reading the following information about J.D. degree requirements, do not make the mistake of thinking these are the Diploma Privilege requirements (which are themselves discussed at 4.6 below). Note: the JD & Diploma Privilege Worksheets at the end of this chapter will assist you in keeping track of both your J.D. degree and Diploma Privilege requirements.
To graduate with a J.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School, three sets of requirements must be met. You must:
- Satisfy the residency & other requirements described in 4.3 below.
- Meet the credit/hour & subject requirements. See 4.4 below.
- Achieve and maintain a requisite grade-point average. See 4.5 below.
(Preliminary note: Like all ABA-accredited law schools, the Law School is required to comply with American Bar Association guidelines, including Chapter 3 of the Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, which can be found at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/standards/standards.html. Some of the Law School's Rules which specifically address ABA requirements are currently out-of-date with respect to same. Since those particular Law School Rules were last revised, the ABA has altered significantly the applicable rules.)
Maximum allowable time: To be eligible for the JD degree, the Law School requires students to complete all degree requirements within six years from the commencement of law studies. Extensions of time, in exceptional cases, can be granted by the Retentions Committee; military service typically does not count against this time period. For more information on this time constraint, see Law School Rule 7.06.
Minimum allowable time: You are not allowed to go to law school "too fast." The ABA's accreditation rules,
intended to assure that the quality of legal training is not
impaired by students carrying overloads and unduly accelerating their
graduations, require law schools to, in effect, set speed limits on the
pace of law study in order to prevent students from
securing a J.D. degree in an injudiciously short period of time. Thus, the ABA requires students to attend for minimum periods of instruction in
order to graduate.
ABA Standard 311(c) provides that students may complete their degree requirements “no earlier than 24 months” after commencing law studies. This typically means, for example, were a student to start at the Law School in September 2015, the earliest the student could normally expect to complete all degree requirements and graduate is December 2017–-that is, after five regular semesters of full-time study. Note, however, that in this instance some summer session work would almost certainly be necessary: because the First-year Program is currently limited to 32 credits, and in each subsequent term one is limited to a maximum of 18 credits (see below), one would still need 5 credits of summer session work to reach the 90 credits required. Additional Note: It may be technically possible for a full-time student starting in September to complete degree requirements by August two years later (i.e., precisely 24 months later--and no earlier); this would entail taking, after the first year, approximately 18 credits in each of the 2L semesters, plus approximately 22 summer credits over two summers. Be advised, however, that: (1) sufficient variation in summer course offerings in subsequent summers is not guaranteed; and (2) completing J. D. degree work in 24 months is difficult and not necessarily advisable for most students.
Credit Limitations: Students are not permitted to be enrolled in more than 18 credits per term. (See ABA Standard 311(d), which forbids enrollment, at any time, in more than 20 percent of the total coursework required for graduation. As the Law School requires 90 credits for the JD degree, the applicable enrollment restriction is 18 credits.) Credits associated with enrichment classes or other classes upon which JD degree credit will not be based do not count toward the 18 credit limitation.
Credits 'in residence': Law School Rule 9.01(1)(c) mandates that a "minimum of 50 credits must be earned as a J.D. candidate in this Law School for a student to be entitled to receive a J.D. from Wisconsin." Thus, a student who transfers to UW Law from a different law school, and who possesses a fairly large number of potentially transferable credits from the original school, must complete at least 50 credits as a UW Law student. This might mean that such a student will need more than the typical 90 credits total (see 4.4.1 below) to earn the Wisconsin JD.
Sufficient Credits in Courses with Regular Class Sessions (the 64-credit rule): Per ABA requirement (see Standard 311(b)), graduation is conditioned on at least 64 credits of the 90 credits required for degree being completed in law courses with regularly scheduled class sessions or direct faculty instruction. This will be important to keep in mind if, for instance, a student wishes to participate in certain curricular activities (e.g., law journals, Moot Court, externships, Mock Trial competitions, directed reading/research) that do not necessarily involve attendance at regularly scheduled class sessions, or if a student will transfer non-law credits as part of a dual degree program or otherwise apply non-law credits to the JD. If you have questions or concerns about this requirement, please contact Amy Arntsen, Law School Registrar, at email@example.com.
4.4 J.D. Degree: Credit/Hour & Subject Requirements
To graduate, law students must satisfactorily complete 90 credits (or “hours”) of courses, all of which must qualify for credit from the University of Wisconsin Law School, whether the courses are taken at the Law School or elsewhere. This is sometimes referred to as the 90-Credit Rule. (To “satisfactorily complete” refers to required grades, discussed at 4.5 below.)
Important Note: A student who completes 90 or more credits and has fulfilled all other J.D. degree course requirements (i.e., the First-Year Program, the Legal Process Requirement, and the Professional Responsibilities Requirement) will be graduated – regardless of whether the student has yet to complete any requirements necessary for Diploma Privilege. However, students meeting the graduation requirements by December of their 3L year may request a deferral of graduation until the end of their 3L year (May) by notifying the Law School Registrar. This exception may not apply to international students on a visa. Contact Amy Arntsen, Law School Registrar, for more information.
Additional Note: All 60-Credit Rule courses (discussed in 4.6.2 below) count toward the 90 credits needed for degree. (But not all '90-Credit Rule' courses satisfy the Diploma Privilege-related 60-Credit Rule.)
Please note that the JD & Diploma Privilege Worksheets located at the end of this chapter are useful for keeping track of both your J.D. degree and Diploma Privilege requirements.
Within the 90 “hours” (or credits), students must complete the following Graduation Requirement courses:
(1) The First-Year Program: Contracts I, Torts I, Civil Procedure I, Introduction to Substantive Criminal Law, Legal Research & Writing I & II (a grade of C- or better must be earned to receive credit in LR&W I & II; Law School Rule 3.11), Property, and two mandatory electives such as Civil Procedure II; Constitutional Law I; Contracts II; Introduction to Criminal Procedure; International Law; Legislation and Regulation; and Business Organizations I. (Note that elective choices vary from year to year) (Law School Rule 3.01).
(2) The Professional Responsibilities Requirement: Professional Responsibilities or Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice. (Law School Rule 3.12)
(3) The Legal Process Requirement: Met by the Legal Process course as well as a host of other courses that evaluate a particular “legal system as a whole.” (Law School Rule 3.03) In addition to the Legal Process course itself, these recent courses have satisfied the Legal Process Requirement:
- Administrative Law
- Advanced Indian Law
- Chinese Law
- Comparative Law
- Constitution in the American Civil War
- Federal Law & Indian Tribes
- Housing & Community Economic Development
- International Business Transactions
- International Law
- International Trade Law
- Law of Democracy
- Public Law and Private Power
- Selected Problems in American Legal History: 20th Century Constitution
- Sociology of Law
- Survey of Legal Systems
- Wisconsin State Constitutional Law
All courses meeting this requirement will be so designated on the online Course Schedule.
(4) Upper-Level Writing Requirement: Per Law School Rule 3.11.1 and ABA Standard 303(a)(2), J.D. candidates have an “Upper-level Writing Requirement” and are required to complete one rigorous writing experience subsequent to the completion of the First-Year Program. Curricular activities that may meet this requirement will be designated by the Dean and are denoted in the Notes column of the Law School's online course schedule with “LW.” Students, however, are urged to check with the course instructor to ensure that they will indeed be able to fulfill the Upper-level Writing Requirement in the course, and to understand what must be done in the class in order to fulfill the requirement. Certain curricular activities automatically meet the requirement. To individually satisfy the requirement, a student must complete a writing project that included each of the following: (1) at least 15 pages (double-spaced) of written work; (2) submission of a draft on which the instructor provided feedback on the writing (as opposed to the substantive content); and (3) the instructor's feedback was provided in time for the feedback to be incorporated into the final product. The Upper-Level Writing Requirement form must be submitted to the Law School Registrar by every student, indicating the manner in which the student meets this requirement.
(5) Skills Requirement: Per Law School Rule 3.07, students who decide not to pursue Diploma Privilege qualification and who additionally do not plan to take Evidence must contact Associate Dean Kelly (KevinKelly@wisc.edu) about ensuring they take some appropriate skills course in order to meet ABA requirements for the JD degree.
Please note that the JD & Diploma Privilege Worksheets located at the end of this chapter are useful for keeping track of both your J.D. degree and Diploma Privilege requirements.
Important Note for students who may wish to be admitted in New York: See Section 4.12.1 infra.
To graduate, a student must have completed courses totaling not fewer than 90 credits, including all the courses required for graduation, with a weighted final average of not less than 2.0 on the Law School’s 4.3 scale. (Law School Rule 9.01) Basically, the weighted final average is based on all the courses for which a student has received Law School letter grades (as opposed to letter grades earned in non-Law courses and for which the letter grades on the University’s 4.0 scale are reported; these non-4.3 scale letter grades do not factor into a Law student’s GPA).
Thus, the critical average to maintain is a weighted average of 2.0 or better (on the Law School’s 4.3 scale). Students frequently ask whether they must have a C (the equivalent to 2.0) in every class. The short answer is no. A second frequently asked question is whether students must retake any class in which they receive a grade below C. The short answer to this question is also no, except that Legal Research and Writing I and II must be retaken if a grade of D+ or lower is earned. But students must have a 2.0 or better overall--and complete 90 credits--(including all Graduation Requirements) in order to receive the J. D. degree.
Note: Since the Law School uses a separate grading scale from the rest of the University, your official UW transcript and student record will not calculate or show your Law School GPA. Directions on how to calculate your Law School GPA are available in Section 9 of this Read This First! student handbook. A student's Law School GPA is available on the unofficial transcript provided by the Office of Career and Professional Development.
Years ago, many states had a "diploma privilege," a set of course and grade requirements which, if fulfilled, allowed one to be admitted to practice without taking a bar exam. Wisconsin is now alone in retaining this privilege, by rule of the Wisconsin Supreme Court: http://www.wicourts.gov/supreme/sc_rules.jsp (see Chapter 40). To qualify for the Wisconsin Diploma Privilege, one must satisfy two sets of requirements:
(1) One must meet certain academic requirements. See 4.6.1-4.6.5 below.
(2) One must meet requirements relating to character and fitness to practice law. See 4.7 below.
As stated above, the vast majority of students who earn J.D. degrees from the Law School also meet the requirements for Wisconsin Diploma Privilege. The JD & Diploma Privilege Worksheets located at the end of this chapter outline the academic requirements for diploma privilege and are useful for keeping track of both your J.D. degree and Diploma Privilege requirements. Contact Amy Arntsen, Law School Registrar (firstname.lastname@example.org), with questions about the academic requirements for diploma privilege.
In order to be certified for admission to the Wisconsin Bar under the Diploma Privilege, a graduate must satisfy three requirements:
The graduate must be awarded a J.D. degree from the Law School. See 4.2 above. (See also Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 40.03).
The graduate must have satisfactorily completed courses in the Mandatory Subject Matter areas. (SCR 40.03(2)(b)) (To “satisfactorily complete” refers to required grades, discussed below at 4.6.5.) The Mandatory Subject Matter Areas are: Constitutional Law (divided into separate Constitutional Law I and Constitutional Law II requirements); Contracts (satisfied by Contracts I); Criminal Law and Procedure (divided into separate Introduction to Substantive Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure requirements); Evidence; Jurisdiction of Courts (satisfied by Civil Procedure II, Federal Jurisdiction, or Conflicts of Laws); Ethics & Legal Responsibilities of the Legal Profession (satisfied by Professional Responsibilities or Legal Profession or Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice); Pleading & Practice (satisfied by Civil Procedure I); Real Property (satisfied by Property); Torts (satisfied by Torts I); and Wills & Estates (satisfied by Trusts & Estates I). (Note: the above rule is sometimes referred to as the 10-Subject/30-Credit Rule, although the required courses will add up to more than 30 credits and, with the Constitutional Law and Criminal Law & Procedure requirements each divided, there are in reality twelve separate mandatory subjects, not ten.)
The graduate must have satisfactorily completed not fewer than 60 credits in the Elective Subject Matter areas. (SCR 40.03(2)(a)) (To “satisfactorily complete” refers to required grades, discussed below at 4.6.5.) This is most often referred to as the 60-Credit Rule. All courses satisfying the 60-Credit Rule will be so designated on the Law School's online course schedule, which is available at www.law.wisc.edu/academics/courses/ For an updated list of 60-Credit Rule courses, go to http://www.law.wisc.edu/academics/courses/ and click on “60-Credit Rule Courses.”
All of the Mandatory Subject Area courses referenced above will count toward the 60-Credit Rule. A student who takes all of the Mandatory Subject Area courses (including the many found in the First-Year Program) will already have approximately 40 or more credits toward meeting the 60-Credit Rule. Thus, the student need only take 20 or so additional credits of 60-Credit Rule courses to meet the requirement.
In a student’s law school career, a cumulative maximum of only five clinical credits (to include internships and externships) will count toward the 60-Credit Rule for Diploma Privilege (but all such credits will count toward the 90-Credit Rule required for graduation (see 4.4.1 above)). In the Lawyering Skills Course, five of the eight credits will apply to the 60-Credit Rule, but all will count toward the 90-Credit Rule. For Professional Responsibilities, one credit will apply to the 60-Credit Rule, but all will count toward the 90-Credit Rule. For Trial Advocacy (including Mock Trial), a maximum of four credits will apply to the 60-Credit Rule for Diploma Privilege, but all will count toward the 90-Credit Rule for graduation.
The operation of these rules is illustrated by the following table:
|Course||Cumulative Maximum Credits|
Applicable to 60-Credit Rule
To 90-Credit Rule
| 5|| 8|
| 1|| 2|
|Trial Advocacy|| 4|| All|
As stated earlier, students must “satisfactorily complete” both the Mandatory Subject Matter courses and 60-Credit Rule courses for Diploma Privilege eligibility (SCR 40.03(2)). By Law School Rule, this is interpreted as both earning a weighted (or “cumulative”) average of at least 2.0 in the Mandatory Subject Matter courses (Law School Rule 3.04(1)(b)) and earning a weighted average of at least a 2.0 in the 60-Credit Rule area (Law School Rule 3.04(1)(c)). Note that this does not mean that a C (the letter equivalent of 2.0 on the 4.3 scale) is required in each course; rather, the weighted average must be 2.0 in each of these two categories of courses.
Thus, failure to achieve a weighted average of 2.0 or better on the Law School’s 4.3 scale in the Mandatory Subject Matter courses will prevent the student from receiving the Diploma Privilege upon graduation. This often means that a student who has not maintained a 2.0 average in the first-year courses will not be eligible for the Diploma Privilege. Thus, a student who achieves a better than 2.0 GPA for the 60-Credit Rule courses overall, but did not achieve a 2.0 or better for the Mandatory Subject Matter courses required for Diploma Privilege, must take the state bar examination to qualify to practice in Wisconsin after graduation. Similarly, students must also have a 2.0 average or better for all 60-Credit Rule courses overall.
(Note: grades earned in any semester following the semester in which the J.D. degree requirements are completed are not counted for Diploma Privilege eligibility purposes).
Transfer and Visiting Away Students: Credits from other law schools counted towards a UW law degree, whether due to a student transferring to the UW from another law school or a UW Law student visiting at another law school, are not factored into the UW Law school grade point average.
Students who transfer to UW Law after their 1L year may have far fewer credits averaged into the diploma privilege Mandatory Subject Matter courses than their fellow students who did their first year of law school at UW (most Mandatory Subject Matter courses would have been taken by the transfer student in his or her 1L year and thus transferred to UW Law without a letter grade). In that situation, a four-credit D could prevent a transfer student from reaching the 2.0 GPA in Mandatory Subject Matter courses.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules state “[a]n applicant for bar admission shall establish good moral character and fitness to practice law.” Such an applicant must establish, to the satisfaction of the Board of Bar Examiners (BBE), that the applicant possesses the requisite character and fitness. (See SCR 40.06) Note that the burden is on the applicant to establish all necessary qualifications (SCR 40.07) and that the BBE “shall decline to certify the character and fitness of an applicant who knowingly makes a materially false statement of a material fact or who fails to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension known by the applicant to have arisen in connection with his or her application.” (SCR 40.06(3))
Information and Filing Instructions, along with the application packet, are available on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Board of Bar Examiners’ website: www.wicourts.gov/forms1/bbe.htm
You are strongly urged to review the Character and Fitness Certification application at your earliest possible convenience. The first reason for this is so that you can acquaint yourself with the nature of the information being sought (much of which may oblige you to consult personal records, documents, papers, or contact third parties for required information). The second reason is to identify any questions you might have about the application and how you should proceed in light of these questions. BBE staff members typically visit the Law School each autumn in order to answer law students’ questions. You are urged to take advantage of these visits by the BBE staff, who are also available by phone to answer questions about the application. DO NOT DELAY in beginning to assemble the information you will need to complete the application.
Here are some web-sites that may prove of use in the assembling of required information:
- Wisconsin Drivers record:
- Wisconsin Law Enforcement record:
If you have questions about the application or the application process not answered herein, you may contact the BBE Admissions at (608) 266-9760.
When you examine your application, note that there are varying fees, depending on one's graduation month and when one files the application. Per SCR Chapter 40, Appendix BA14.05, a late fee will be assessed to the following applicants for bar admission on the diploma privilege: May graduates who have not filed an application by the preceding December 15; August graduates who have not filed an application by the preceding March 15; and December graduates who have not filed an application by the preceding July 15.
Please read the following paragraphs carefully. Although the formal deadline to file your Character and Fitness Certification application is based on when your degree is conferred (and degree conferral occurs at approximately the same time as graduation), if you wish to participate in the large-group swearing-in ceremony (see 4.8), your application should be filed approximately six months prior to the date of the swearing-in ceremony. This may seem early to you, but the Board of Bar Examiners requires 3 - 6 months to complete the character and fitness examinations for a great many applicants for admission. Submitting your application early also avoids the application late fee (see 4.7.4 above). (If you will not be available for the large-group swearing-in ceremony, the BBE will send you the appropriate bar admission certification documents; you are then expected to either participate in the Supreme Court's regularly-scheduled monthly swearing-in ceremony, or to make your own arrangements regarding a private swearing-in.)
Applications may be submitted following the actual conferral of the degree. As a rule, for May graduates, the application deadline is July 1; for December graduates, the deadline is February 1; for August graduates, the deadline is October 1. (If the deadline falls on a weekend the BBE may choose to extend the deadline). Of course, if you wait as long as the applicable deadline to file your application, you will still have to wait some months while your application is processed.
Importantly, if you miss this vital deadline altogether, you will have forfeited the opportunity to apply for Diploma Privilege and will have to sit for the Wisconsin Bar Examination. (Note: Students who study abroad or visit at another law school in their last term will find, even if forwarding of the resulting transcript to UW is delayed, that the UW Law School will “back-date” the conferral of their degree to the end of the term in question. However, if you have not yet submitted a Diploma Privilege application, the application deadline (e.g, July 1 for May graduates) may have already passed. Early application is thus encouraged.) See also Rule BA 14.04(b) of the Rules of the Board of Bar Examiners contained in the Appendix to Chapter 40 of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules, for a very limited exception to the July 1 deadline.
According to the Board of Bar Examiners (BBE), filing is completed on the date a properly executed application and applicable fees are received at the BBE office. The BBE does not recognize postmark dates. Finally, once an application is timely filed, an applicant does have up to one year to complete the application process before losing the Diploma Privilege opportunity altogether.
Applicants are responsible for having a transcript sent to the BBE. Transcripts are ordered from the University Registrar (http://ordertranscript.wisc.edu/). The Law School will certify the graduate's law degree directly to the BBE.
Wisconsin, like a number of other states, is an “integrated bar.” This means that to hold a Wisconsin license to practice law you must belong to the State Bar of Wisconsin. Graduates of the Law School are generally admitted to the State Bar of Wisconsin by being sworn-in before the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin, usually at a large-group swearing-in shortly after graduation.
The Board of Bar Examiners (BBE), to which you will make your application for admission to the bar pursuant to the Diploma Privilege, will communicate with you about the details of your swearing-in before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. For May graduates, the large-group swearing-in is typically held in early June. For December graduates, the large-group swearing-in is typically held sometime in January (this is usually a combined session with Marquette University Law School graduates). For August graduates, the BBE typically makes arrangements for individual swearing-ins in approximately late September. The BBE will not confirm you for swearing-in before the Wisconsin Supreme Court until your application has been finalized and the relevant character and fitness certification completed.
Information on admission to the Federal District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin is provided to graduating students approximately four to six weeks before the end of the final semester. For May graduates a large-group swearing-in ceremony before the Western District is scheduled on the same day as Wisconsin Supreme Court admission. Once you have been admitted to the State Bar of Wisconsin by virtue of being sworn-in before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, you can be admitted to the Western District—either in person (usually on the same day you are admitted before the Wisconsin Supreme Court), or later by mail.
While the process is made easy for you, you must nevertheless complete the online application, take the oath, and pay the fee before you can legally practice before this court. If you are interested in being admitted before the Western District, but will not be available for the large-group swearing-in ceremony, details on arranging for your own admission are available at: www.wiwd.uscourts.gov/attorney-admission.
For information about admission before the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, see 4.10 below.
A brief note about other federal courts: All federal courts have their own rules for admission. Most are easily met and can be done by mail, but most also require that your admission be moved by someone who is already a member of that court. Contact the clerk of the federal court where you are interested in practicing to obtain rules and applications. The UW Law Alumni Association and/or the Office of Career and Professional Development may be able to help you find someone in another state to move your admission.
4.10 Admission to the Bar of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Other Federal Courts, U.S. Supreme Court
Some graduates may desire to be admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee instead of—or in addition to—the Western District Court in Madison. As is the case with the Western District, before you can be admitted to practice in the Eastern District, you must first be admitted before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Applications and information regarding admission before the Eastern District are available online at http://www.wied.uscourts.gov/index.php. You should submit the required materials directly to the court in Milwaukee, either by mail or in person. You must have an attorney already admitted to practice before the Eastern District complete the required Affidavit in support of your admission. If you have any questions regarding admission before the Eastern District, please direct them to the court clerk's office at (414) 297-3372.
Admission to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court requires that you practice three years before applying; the website is: www.supremecourtus.gov/bar/baradmissions.html.
If you are unable to make the scheduled group swearing-in, you can be sworn in at the Wisconsin Supreme Court's next monthly admission ceremony. If you wish to be sworn-in to practice as a Wisconsin attorney but must leave the state permanently before the large-group swearing-in date for UW Law graduates, you can still be sworn-in to the Wisconsin Bar. There are two avenues for this, neither of which is easy—so if at all possible, it's best to get sworn-in at the large-group ceremony (or, alternatively, at the Supreme Court's regularly scheduled monthly swearing-in ceremony).
The procedure for an out-of-state swearing-in to the Wisconsin Bar is somewhat involved. A brief explanation follows and further information is available from Ms. Jackie Widing, Assistant Deputy Clerk, Supreme Court/Court of Appeals Clerk's Office, (608) 261-4311.
Supreme Court Rule 40.02(4) provides that the oath may be administered by any person authorized by that jurisdiction to administer the attorney’s oath for bar admission. If you wish to have such a person administer the oath, you must provide a copy of the rule from that jurisdiction which provides authority for that person to administer an attorney’s oath, along with a letter including the proposed date and time as well as the name and address of the individual administering the oath. This should be submitted at least 10 days in advance of the scheduled date.
Along with the letter and the copy of the rule, you need to send the original Memorandum-Certificate (Board Certification) issued by the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners, the completed Certificate Mailing Address Form (both of these items will be sent by the BBE) and a check payable to "Board of Bar Examiners" for the specified amount. The above items must be mailed to Ms. Widing at the Supreme Court Clerk's Office, P.O. Box 1688, Madison WI 53701-1688 (phone first to verify mailing address). The street address for Fed Ex or Overnight Mail is as follows: 110 E. Main St., #215, Madison, WI 53703.
Upon receipt of the above items (letter, jurisdiction rule, memo/certificate, mailing form and check), Ms. Widing will send acknowledgment directly to the individual who will administer the oath along with required paperwork.
One variation of this: if you wish to be sworn in by another state's Supreme Court Justice (or member of the highest court in another jurisdiction) or a judge in the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court, you need not send the copy of the jurisdiction's rule on oaths mentioned above. You will need to schedule a date and time to be sworn in with the Justice/judge. Ms. Widing will need to receive written notice (letter including date and time as well as name and address of individual administering oath) at least 10 days in advance of the scheduled date, along with the documents (certificate/form/check) already mentioned above.
The decision to seek Early Admission must not be approached lightly. Early Admission is granted in rare instances when the law graduate can demonstrate that extraordinary and compelling circumstances, such as medical exigency or military obligation, warrant this special consideration. Early Admission cannot occur until after the official degree conferral date.
The first step is to submit to the Dean of the Law School (via the Law School Registrar) a written Petition with supporting documentation outlining in detail the basis for the need. The Petition should be submitted no later than the last day of classes (this is a firm deadline: no exceptions). Of course, one's application with the BBE must also be complete. Additionally, the student MUST mark all final exams and final papers with the notice that, in addition to being a graduating 3L, the student is also seeking Early Bar Admission.
If the Petition is approved, the Dean of the Law School will write a letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court requesting permission for the graduate to be sworn-in early. The letter will include the reason and a statement that all requirements for admission have been met. That letter will be forwarded to the Chief Justice for approval or denial.
If approved by the Chief Justice, the BBE may issue your certification as soon as possible following conferral of the J.D. degree. Once certified by the BBE (applicants should contact the BBE with any questions regarding the timing of the certification itself), the graduate may schedule an appointment to be sworn in either privately or in a monthly group admission.
Generally, graduates who intend to practice outside of Wisconsin will need to take a bar exam in the state where they intend to practice and apply for admission to the bar of that state. As stated above with respect to Wisconsin, no matter where you choose to be admitted to the bar, you must fill out the appropriate forms, get records certified and forwarded to courts, and you MUST observe deadlines. Admission to the bar requires you to pay attention to details. Remember that there are fees involved, so plan ahead for these fees and for a bar review course if applicable.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners and American Bar Association publish the “Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements,” available here: http://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Comp-Guide/CompGuide.pdf.
Important Note (New York State): the New York State Board of Law Examiners has promulgated specific rules applicable to students who began the study of law after April 1, 2012, and who wish to sit for the New York bar examination:
- No more than 30 credits may be taken in clinical courses, field placement programs or externships, including any separately credited classroom components of such courses or programs; and
- Law study must be completed in no fewer than 24 months and no more than 60 months (5 years) after commencement of law study (note that this is one year less than the 6 years allowed under UW Law School Rules).
Additionally, the New York State courts have instituted a further requirement: Pursuant to 520.16 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals, applicants who successfully pass the bar examination in New York State must demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service before applying for admission to practice. Based on successful passage of the bar examination, any applicant who seeks admission to practice in New York after January 1, 2015, must satisfy the 50-hour requirement. Further information about this pro bono requirement may be found here:
If you have participated in a clinical course, externship or judicial clerkship as a law student, you may have already satisfied the 50-hour requirement. (See “What Sort of Work Qualifies as Pro Bono Work” below). If you want to use one or more of those courses to satisfy the 50-hour requirement, you and your supervising attorney must complete two affidavits: One that is called a “Form Affidavit as to Applicant’s Compliance with the Pro Bono Requirements, Including Certification by Supervisor;” and a second called “Form Affidavit as to Applicant’s Law Related Employment and/or Solo Practice.” There is no reason to wait until you are applying for admission to the New York State Bar to complete these affidavits – we recommend that you have your supervisor(s) complete these forms at the end of your externship or clerkship. This will avoid your having to search for supervisors who may have forgotten you or who have left their jobs. Here are links to the two forms:
1) Affidavit of law-related employment to the NY State Bar:
2) Affidavit as to compliance with pro bono requirements:
Do not fill in the Department to which you are seeking admission yet, unless you know for sure the area of the State in which you will be working or living. Also, you may not have your “BOLE” number yet (your number for the bar exam), so leave that blank as well.
Keep these affidavits in a file so that you have them when you need to fill out the forms necessary for bar admission after you have taken the bar exam – you will not be using them until after the bar exam, but it’s a good idea to get them now so you don’t have track down supervisors at some point in the future.
What Sort of Work Qualifies as “Pro Bono Work” Under Rule 520.16?
Eligible pro bono work can be performed any time after you commenced your legal education, and can be performed anywhere that is convenient for you. The work must be law related (i.e., the work must involve the use of legal skills and law-related activities that are appropriate for lawyers-in-training not yet admitted to practice, and you must avoid the unauthorized practice of law).
Your pro bono work must be performed under the supervision of (i) a member of the law school faculty, including adjunct faculty, or an instructor employed by a law school; (ii) an attorney admitted to practice and in good standing in the jurisdiction in which the work is performed; or (iii) in the case of a clerkship or externship in a court system, by a judge or an attorney employed by the court system.
Finally, the types of projects that meet the requirement are: (i) work performed in the service of low-income or disadvantaged individuals who cannot afford counsel and whose unmet legal needs prevent their access to justice; OR (ii) work that involves the use of legal skills for an organization that qualifies as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3); OR work that involves the use of legal skills for the court system or federal, state or local government agencies or legislative bodies.
It seems clear, therefore, that students who complete 50 hours of work through externships such as the Judicial Intern Clinical Program; the Wisconsin DOJ Clinical Program; LAIP; the Innocence Project; the Family Court Clinic; the Immigrant Justice Clinic; the Prosecution Program; the Defender Program; an externship at any U.S. Attorney’s Office; and a large number of other placements will be deemed to have satisfied the requirement of 50 pro bono hours. See, in particular, Question 12 on page 9 of the “Frequently Asked Questions” about the Pro Bono Requirement, which is available at http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf, to determine whether any clinical or externship courses you have completed, or are contemplating, will satisfy the requirement. The fact that you received academic credit or a stipend or grant in connection with your participation in a law school clinic or externship does not disqualify the work.
Please also see the Current Opportunities available through the Pro Bono Program, or contact the Pro Bono Program directly at email@example.com, for additional information about other pro bono activities that may satisfy the New York requirements.
Students who are considering pursuing admission to the New York bar are strongly urged to plan with the above requirements in mind. If you have questions about the New York requirements and your UW Law School curriculum, you should consult with the Law School Registrar, Amy Arntsen (Room 5107) or Curricular Coordinator Jane Heymann (Room 5103).
Some states require registration as a law student in order to expedite sitting for the bar examination in that jurisdiction. If you definitely plan to practice in some other state, you are urged to check with the licensing authority in that state to see if you can reduce the costs associated with admission in that state by registering as a law student.
As with the Wisconsin Bar, if you plan to seek bar admission in another state, you must file forms for that state in a timely manner. You may request the appropriate bar admission packet by writing or calling that bar, or going to their website.
The state bar to which you are applying will probably require, as part of the application process or as a prerequisite to sit for the bar exam, some manner of certification from the UW Law School that you have indeed received your J.D. degree. You should carefully research what is required by the state to which you are applying.
Some states will provide, as part of their bar application materials, forms or certificates which the Law School must complete and forward on to the relevant bar admission authority. Some states do not provide such forms or certificates, but do require a letter from the Law School; usually the letter must contain particular information.
Forms or Certificates. You must provide, either directly or by email, the relevant form or certificate to the Law School Registrar (Registrar@law.wisc.edu) who will complete it, obtain the Dean's signature, if necessary, and then forward it as appropriate. Usually what is being sought is a certification of the J.D. degree; therefore, the Law School does not complete the form/certificate until all grades (temporary or final) are received. You need to provide the Law School Registrar with the required materials long enough in advance to allow for their completion and to obtain the necessary signature.
Letters. If your state requires a letter, you should email the Law School Registrar (Registrar@law.wisc.edu). Indicate precisely the recipient's name and address, what information should be in the letter, and when it is due. The Law School Registrar will produce the letter on behalf of the Law School and forward as appropriate.
Transcripts. If the bar to which you are applying requires a transcript, you must submit a request to the University Registrar's Office. The Law School is unable to obtain either official or unofficial transcripts on your behalf. Order your transcript at http://ordertranscript.wisc.edu. If the transcript must accompany the certification letter/form, contact Amy Arntsen, Law School Registrar (Registrar@law.wisc.edu), to make the necessary arrangements. Some states expect the J.D. degree to appear on the transcript. If you are taking the bar exam immediately following your graduation you are unlikely to have the degree appear on your transcript in time to submit to the state bar examiner. Contact Amy Arntsen to determine the best course of action in that situation.
Below at section 4.13 is a J.D. Degree Course & Credit Worksheet and a Diploma Privilege Course & Credit Worksheet (combined in one file). You can use these to keep track of both your J.D. Degree Requirements and your Diploma Privilege Requirements.
JD/Diploma Privilege Graduation Credit Evaluation Worksheet-for those entering Fall 2012 or before (best viewed using Adobe Acrobat)
JD/Diploma Privilege Graduation Credit Evaluation Worksheet-for those entering Fall 2013 or after (best viewed using Adobe Acrobat)