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). 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). Finally, it will review some general graduation and commencement information. 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 (See 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. See 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 https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/standards/. Some of the Law School's Rules which specifically address ABA requirements are currently out-of-date with respect to same.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(b) provides that students may complete their degree requirements “no earlier than 24 months” after commencing law studies. To graduate early means, for example, were a student to start at the Law School in September 2018, the student could complete all degree requirements and graduate in December 2020–-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 4 credits of summer session work to reach the 90 credits required.
Additional Note: It is 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.
Students are not permitted to be enrolled in more than 18 credits per term. (See ABA Standard 311(c), 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. Credits that are part of a Law School study abroad exchange program are considered "in residence."
Sufficient Credits (the 64-credit rule)
Sufficient Credits in courses with regular class sessions (the 64-credit rule): Per ABA requirement (see Standard 311(a)), 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.
The Law School course schedule indicates whether a class counts towards the 64-credit rule. If you have questions or concerns about this requirement, please contact Amy Arntsen, Law School Registrar, at email@example.com.
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, the Professional Responsibilities Requirement and the 64-credit rule ) 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 third 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:
- The First-Year Program
- Contracts I
- Torts I
- Civil Procedure I
- Introduction to Substantive Criminal Law
- Legal Research & Writing I & II
- One mandatory elective (Note that elective choices vary from year to year; see Law School Rule 3.01) such as:
- Civil Procedure II
- Constitutional Law I
- Contracts II
- Introduction to Criminal Procedure
- International Law
- Legislation and Regulation
- Business Organizations I
- The Professional Responsibilities Requirement
- Professional Responsibilities or Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice. (Law School Rule 3.12) Qualifying courses comprise at least 2 credits and include substantial instruction in the history, goals, structure, values, and responsibilities of the legal profession and its members.
- Note: this requirement may not be met by a student in the same course in which the student is fulfilling the requirements of either the "Experiential Course Requirement/Skills Requirement" or the "Upper-Level Writing Requirement".
- The Legal Process Requirement
- Met by courses that evaluate a particular “legal system as a whole.” (Law School Rule 3.03). All courses meeting this requirement will be so designated on the online Course Schedule.
- These recent courses have satisfied the Legal Process Requirement:
- Administrative Law
- Chinese Law
- Comparative Law
- Constitution in the American Civil War
- Federal Law & Indian Tribes
- International Business Transactions
- International Law
- International Trade Law
- Law of Democracy
- Legislation and Regulation
- Legislation/Statutory Interpretation
- Public Law and Private Power
- Selected Problems in American Legal History: 20th Century Constitution
- Sociology of Law
- Wisconsin State Constitutional Law
- 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, faculty-supervised 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.
- To satisfy the requirement, a student must complete a writing project that included each of the following:
- At least 20 pages (double-spaced) of written work;
- Submission of a draft on which the instructor provided feedback on the writing (and not merely on the substantive content); and
- 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.
- Note: this requirement may not be met simultaneously by a student in the same course in which the student is fulfilling the requirements of either the "Experiential Course Requirement" or the "Professional Responsibilities Requirement".
Also please note that, because law review/law journal writing is not typically faculty-supervised, writing done through participation on these does not meet the upper-level writing requirement.
- Experiential Course Requirement (students matriculating in Fall 2016 and thereafter)
- Per Law School Rule 3.07, all students must complete one or more experiential courses totaling at least six credit hours. Experiential courses will be designated by the Dean's Office in conformity with American Bar Association standards. An 'experiential course' is either a simulation course, a clinical course, or an externship (also sometimes known as a 'field placement'). Experiential courses are primarily experiential in nature, as opposed to a course that simply has an experiential aspect.
- Note: The experiential course requirement, in whole or in part, may not be met by a student in the same course in which the student is fulfilling the requirements of either the "Upper-level Writing Requirement" or the "Professional Responsibilities Requirement". To illustrate: if a student is meeting the upper-level writing requirement in a clinic in a particular semester, the clinical credits from that semester cannot also count toward the experiential course requirement; however, if the student continues on in the clinic in a subsequent semester, the follow-on clinical credits may count toward the experiential course requirement.
- Skills Requirement (students matriculating prior to Fall 2016 only)
- (The skills requirement is in the process of being replaced, beginning with students entering in Fall 2016, by the "experiential course requirement" described above.)
- Under the skills requirement, students are required to receive substantial instruction in a professional skill generally regarded as necessary for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession.
- Formerly, this requirement was technically met by students through the Evidence course (required for Diploma Privilege), with those students who decided not to pursue Diploma Privilege, or take Evidence, being required to contact Associate Dean Kelly to ensure some appropriate skills course was taken. Nevertheless, the Law School is aware that all students typically take one or more (non-Evidence) course(s) that have substantial skills instruction, such as a clinic, an externship, Trial Advocacy, Pre-Trial Advocacy, Negotiations, and a variety of other courses.
- Associate Dean Kelly has reviewed the records of students in the Class of 2018 and been in contact with those who still need to take a professional skills course. If you are in the Class of 2018 and have not been contacted by Dean Kelly, it is because your record reflects completion of this requirement.
- Note: this requirement may not be met by a student in the same course in which the student is also fulfilling the requirements of either the "Upper-level Writing Requirement" or the "Professional Responsibilities Requirement".
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 4.12.2 below.
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. 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. (For information on Retakes, see Section 7.4).
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. If you wish to calculate your GPA yourself, follow the directions on how to calculate your Law School GPA contained in Student Handbook, Section 9: Grades, GPAs, Class Standing, Honors. A student's Law School GPA is available on the unofficial transcript in Symplicity 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:
- One must meet certain academic requirements. See 4.6.2-4.6.5 below.
- 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 in the 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, but not including Pre-Trial Advocacy), 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
|Credits Applicable To 90-Credit Rule||Credits Applicable To 64-Credit Rule||Credits Applicable to Experiential Learning Rule|
|5||All||All for clinical courses;
None for externships
|Trial Advocacy||4||All||Instructor-led classes
count; competitions do not
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.
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.
The application is generally available in October for the following year (for 2019 grads the diploma privilege application will be available in October 2018).
4.7.3 Immediately Review the Application.
You are strongly urged to review the Character and Fitness Certification application at your earliest 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.
Special Note: Some applicants will be required to provide an additional FBI check. The FBI checks may take 15 weeks or more to process. Those students wanting to participate in the group swearing-in or wanting to be admitted to the bar soon after graduation may wish to plan accordingly with regard to when the application is submitted, to allow time for the FBI check, if required. The following applicants will be asked to get an FBI check: those who have lived or worked in Arizona or California; non-citizens; and those who have lived in a foreign country. Other applicants may also be asked to provide an FBI check.
Here are some web-sites that may prove of use in the assembling of required information:
If you have questions about the application or the application process, 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 the preceding December 15, late applications are accepted until July 1; for December graduates, the deadline is the preceding July 15, late applications accepted until February 1; for August graduates, the deadline is March 15, late applications are accepted until October 1. (If the final deadline falls on a weekend the BBE may choose to extend the deadline). Of course, if you wait as long as the final applicable deadline to file your application, you will still have to wait some months while your application is processed.
Importantly, if you miss the vital final deadline altogether, you will have forfeited the opportunity to apply for Diploma Privilege and will have to sit for the Wisconsin Bar Examination. 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. 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 through the Student Center or at registrar.wisc.edu/transcript. 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 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 group swearing-in is typically held in late May or early June. For December graduates, the group swearing-in is typically held sometime in January (this is usually a combined session with Marquette University Law School December 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. Please note: The Dean’s Certificate is sent automatically to the BBE for all graduates eligible for diploma privilege. It is sent about one week before the scheduled swearing-in ceremony.
Information on admission to the Federal District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin is provided to graduating students shortly before the end of the spring semester. 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. While the process is made easy for you, you must nevertheless complete the online application, take the oath, and pay the fee online before you can legally practice before this court. The Western District does not require an in-person swear-in; it is all done online although the Court has traditionally held a ceremonial swearing-in for May graduates on the same day as the Wisconsin Bar Admission Group Swearing-in ceremony. If you are interested in being admitted before the Western District, fill out the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin online application.
For information about admission before the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, see 4.10 below.
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. You should submit the required materials directly to the court in Milwaukee. 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.
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.
Admission to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court requires that you practice three years before applying.
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 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 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 Mr. Paul Swart, Assistant Deputy Clerk, Supreme Court/Court of Appeals Clerk's Office, 608-261-4308.
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 proof of payment for the specified amount. The above items must be mailed or emailed to Mr. Swart at the Supreme Court Clerk's Office, email@example.com, 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), Mr. Swart 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. Mr. Swart 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/payment) 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 group swearing-in is often within two weeks of the official degree conferral date, and it generally takes a week or so after the degree conferral date for the early admission request to be processed by the Supreme Court; therefore, early admission may only be a week or so before the group swearing-in.
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 Wisconsin 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. Almost every state except for Wisconsin also requires applicants to have received a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (the MPRE), which is administered three times a year, in March, August and November. Information about the MPRE is available from the National Conference of Bar Examiners at http://www.ncbex.org/about-ncbe-exams/mpre/.
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.
While the Law School will automatically certify your degree to the Wisconsin BBE, graduates taking other states' bar exams must submit a request in writing to the Law School Registrar to have degree certification sent to states other than Wisconsin.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners and American Bar Association publish the “Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements” (PDF).
The New York State Board of Law Examiners has specific rules applicable to students who wish to sit for the New York bar examination. One such rule provides that 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). There are numerous other requirements of which students who plan to sit for the New York bar exam should be aware. They can be found at www.nybarexam.org. You are urged to review these rules very carefully no later than the beginning of your second year of law school, if you plan to sit for the New York bar exam after you graduate.
The New York bar is one of over 30 jurisdictions that now administer the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which consists of the Multistate Bar Examination, the Multistate Performance Test, and the Multistate Essay Examination (for more details about the UBE, please see NCBE's website). The UBE is administered on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. An application to sit for the July New York bar exam must be filed in April. An application to sit for the February New York bar exam must be filed in November.
An extremely helpful resource is the New York State Board of Law Examiners' New York State Bar Exam Information Guide (PDF).
New York's unique requirements that must be met before a person can be admitted to the New York bar are as follows:
You must achieve a passing score on the UBE.
You must complete an online course in New York-specific law, known as the New York Law Course (NYLC), an online, on demand course which reviews important and unique aspects of New York law. It consists of approximately 15 hours of recorded lectures. You must complete the NYLC up to one year prior to or three years after passing the UBE.
You must take and pass an online examination, known as the New York Law Exam (NYLE), which is a 50 item, two hour, open book, multiple choice test administered online and which tests important New York rules. The NYLE is offered four times a year. You must complete the NYLE up to one year prior to or three years after passing the UBE.
You must take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).
If you commenced law school studies after August 1, 2016, you must comply with the new Skills Competency Requirement (PDF) set forth in Section 520.18 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals. You do not have to satisfy this requirement before you sit for the bar exam in New York, but it must be satisfied before you can be admitted to practice in the State of New York.
An applicant for admission may satisfy the skills competency requirement by completing one of five pathways contained in Rule 520.18.
Pathway 1 allows an applicant to satisfy the skills competency and professional values requirement by submitting a certification from the applicant’s law school confirming that (1) the law school has developed a plan identifying and incorporating into its curriculum the skills and professional values that, in the school’s judgment, are required for its graduates’ basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession, and has made this plan publicly available on the law school’s website; and (2) the applicant has acquired sufficient competency in those skills and sufficient familiarity with those values.
Pathway 2 permits an applicant to satisfy the skills competency and professional values requirement by submitting proof that the applicant completed 15 credits of practice-based experiential coursework designed to foster professional competency training. Up to 6 of these 15 credits can be earned in law school certified non-credit-bearing summer employment programs, provided those employment opportunities are certified by the law school and satisfy certain other criteria.
Pathway 3 provides that any applicant who has successfully completed the Pro Bono Scholars Program, pursuant to section 520.17 of the Court’s Rules for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law (see 22 NYCRR 520.17), will be deemed to have satisfied the skills competency and professional values requirement.
Pathway 4 allows an applicant to satisfy the skills competency and professional values requirement upon completion of a post-graduate, six-month apprenticeship in the United States, or in a commonwealth or territory of the United States, or in a foreign country, under the supervision of an attorney authorized to practice in the jurisdiction where the work is performed. The apprenticeship can be paid or unpaid. The supervising attorney is responsible for certifying that the apprenticeship satisfied certain criteria.
Pathway 5 provides that an applicant who has been authorized to practice law in another state, or in a U.S. territory or commonwealth or a country outside the United States, and has practiced in that jurisdiction full-time for one year, or part-time for two years, will meet the skills competency and professional values requirement.
You must comply with the 50-hour pro bono service 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 the NY Courts pro bono requirement.
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:
- Affidavit of law-related employment to the NY State Bar (PDF)
- Affidavit as to compliance with pro bono requirements (PDF)
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:
- a member of the law school faculty, including adjunct faculty, or an instructor employed by a law school;
- an attorney admitted to practice and in good standing in the jurisdiction in which the work is performed; or
- in the case of a clerkship or externship in a court system, by a judge or an attorney employed by the court system.
- 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
- 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 (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 Pro Bono Opportunities available through the UW Law Pro Bono Program, or contact the Pro Bono Program directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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; Curricular Coordinator Jane Heymann; or one of the lawyers in the Office of Career and Professional Development.
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 (email@example.com) 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 through your Student Center or at registrar.wisc.edu/transcript. 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 4.14 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.
For detailed information on graduation degree requirements, please refer to the Graduation & Bar Admission sections above. Careful completion of the JD/Diploma Privilege Graduation Credit Evaluation Worksheet (available at the end of this section) tracks the requirements for graduation and eligibility for diploma privilege. Contact Law School Registrar Amy Arntsen with questions or concerns.
Students carrying old incompletes should finish their work for these classes well before the end of the semester in which they plan to graduate. This is necessary so the work can be graded and the proper paperwork completed before the end of the semester.
This is the Law School Graduation Checklist:
- Complete the JD/Diploma Privilege Graduation Credit Evaluation Worksheet to ensure you have met the requirements for graduation. (Available at the end of this section).
- Notify the Law School of your graduation plans by submitting the "Graduation Intentions" survey. (Usually done in September of 3L year).
- Apply to graduate via your MyUW Student Center. Verify that your name is as you want it to appear on your diploma. (See 4.13.2 below)
- Apply for diploma privilege with the Board of Bar Examiners. (See Section 4.6). If interested, apply for admission to the Federal District Court (See Sections 4.9 and 4.10). If interested, apply for other states' bar exams. (See Section 4.12).
- Decide which commencement ceremony or ceremonies to attend. (See 4.13.3).
- Rent cap and gown through the University Book Store. (See 4.13.6).
- Order invitations, if desired, from University Book Store. Mail them early. (See 4.13.4).
- Make hotel accommodations for family and friends.
- Take exit photo.
- Update your permanent (post-graduate) address in your MyUW Student Center.
- Complete an Employment Survey or see an Office of Career and Professional Development counselor. Update your post-graduation email address with OCPD.
- Check federal loan amounts and status at nslds.ed.gov. Stay on top of credit at annualcreditreport.com. Review repayment options and calculators at studentaid.ed.gov. Consult with the Admissions & Financial Aid Office if you are confused about repayment options and processes.
- Clean out your hang file and locker.
- Informing the University of your Graduation Intentions: The graduation application is available in the Student Center via MyUW. To apply for graduation, indicate the term (semester and year) in which you will complete all degree requirements and indicate attendance/no attendance at a university commencement ceremony (which is separate from the Law School Hooding ceremony). Commencement preferences can be selected from the drop-down menu on the 'Apply for Graduation' page. For help applying for graduation or selecting a commencement ceremony, see the Applying for Graduation instruction page.
- Name Verification: Verify that your name, as indicated in your Student Center, appears exactly as you want it to read in the commencement program and on your diploma. If you have designated a 'preferred name' you may select it as the name to appear in the UW commencement program. To change any aspect of your official name (use of middle name, etc.) complete the Name Change form and submit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of the Registrar.
- Informing the Law School of your Graduation Intentions: The Law School’s Graduation Intentions form is emailed to 3Ls in September. Complete this form and return it to the Law School Registrar (Room 5107 or firstname.lastname@example.org). This informs the Law School of your intent to graduate, so that the Registrar can ensure your graduation eligibility and send you important information regarding graduation, commencement, and admission to the bar. The list generated from the returned Graduation Intentions form is also used as a release by the Board of Bar Examiners for required file checks of character and fitness. View the Graduation Intentions form (PDF).
Students have several options with regard to participation in commencement ceremonies and may participate in the ceremony(ies) that best suit(s) them, or no ceremony at all.
Graduates may choose to attend any or all of the ceremonies listed below under their graduation month. It is important that students notify the Law School Registrar Amy Arntsen of commencement ceremony intentions so their names are included in the appropriate commencement program(s). Keep in mind that each ceremony requires a cap and gown rental (the Law School Hooding Ceremony and the UW Student Commencement in May use the same academic attire rental). Specific dates of the ceremonies are available on the Law School’s Commencement page and the UW Commencement page.
Commencement Ceremony Options for:
- December Graduates
- UW Winter Commencement Ceremony (December)
- Law School Hooding Ceremony (May)
- UW Spring Commencement Ceremony (May)
- May Graduates
- Law School Hooding Ceremony (May)
- UW Spring Commencement Ceremony (May)
- August Graduates
- Law School Hooding Ceremony (May)
- UW Spring Commencement Ceremony (May)
- UW Winter Commencement Ceremony (December)
We encourage students to celebrate these special graduation events with family and friends. There is no limit to the number of guests graduates may invite to commencement events. Law School graduation invitations can be ordered online from C.B. Announcements, Jostens, and Herff Jones, through The University Book Store's Graduation page.
- Dean's Academic Achievement Award: Graduating students who have a cumulative grade point average of 3.35 at the end of their penultimate semester receive a Dean’s Academic Achievement Award, which allows them to wear the honors stole at the commencement ceremony. Once the Law School Registrar has determined eligibility for the Dean’s Academic Achievement Awards, students are notified and the list is sent to the University Book Store. The store allows those students to rent the red honors stole to wear at commencement. Stoles are picked up at the same time as the cap and gown. Please note that receiving a Dean's Academic Achievement Award is not the same as graduating 'with honors.' The Law School does not calculate final grade point averages to determine honors until well after the commencement ceremonies.
- Graduation Honors: Many students who receive a Dean’s Academic Achievement Award also receive cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude honors after calculation of final grade point averages. Those who graduate with honors receive a Law School certificate that recognizes their honors status. These certificates are mailed two months after graduation, so MyUW accounts should include post-graduation addresses. Graduation honors appear on the official transcript but not on the diploma. For more information on graduation honors, see Section 9.7 Honors and Awards.
Candidates must wear the academic attire appropriate to the degree to be conferred. Juris Doctor is a doctorate degree. The gown for UW Law School graduates is called the doctor-of-law or juris doctorate gown and the hood is purple. Learn more at UW Campus Commencement: About the Attire.
Rental Agency: The University Book Store (711 State St., 608-257-3784, uwbookstore.com/graduation) handles all arrangements for tams, gowns, hoods, and honors stoles. Order your commencement attire by phone, in-store or online. Orders for academic attire should be made as early as possible through The University Book Store. Academic attire ordering deadlines are on the University Book Store website.
- Diploma Information: All diplomas are handled by the Office of the Registrar, 333 East Campus Mall #10101, 608-262-3811. The office is open Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Email: email@example.com. Your official graduation date is not the date of the commencement or hooding ceremony but the university's degree conferral date. The official graduation date may be found here: registrar.wisc.edu/graduation-commencement. This official degree conferral date will be on the diploma and on your transcript.
- Domestic First Class: Diplomas will be mailed out approximately 12 to 14 weeks after graduation at no charge. Diplomas will be mailed to the graduate's home address, with the exception of international addresses (see below). Students should be sure that their home address is up-to-date through their Student Center in MyUW and will be accurate after graduation.
- International Airmail: Graduates who wish to have their diploma mailed outside of North America at no charge must provide a Diploma address in order for the diploma to be mailed. You can add or edit a diploma address via your Student Center (The Diploma address can be the same as your home address). Questions of any kind regarding diploma mailing can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Holds: Students who have holds placed on their records will not receive their diplomas until those holds are cleared. Information on how to clear holds is available on the campus registrar’s website: registrar.wisc.edu/holds.
- Diploma Cover: May graduates receive the red diploma covers at the Open House or from the front desk. December graduates receive their diploma covers when they cross the stage at the UW Winter Commencement Ceremony. Graduates not participating in a commencement ceremony can pick up a diploma cover from the Office of the Registrar, Student Services, 333 E. Campus Mall, Room 10101. The office is open Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
- Posting of Degrees: Once your degree is posted it will show under the Degree Summary link in the Student Center on MyUW. At that point the degree will also appear on your transcript.
Order official transcripts through the UW Office of the Registrar at registrar.wisc.edu/transcript. There is no charge for transcripts sent electronically or by U.S. Postal Service. Official transcripts will not include Law School GPA or rank. If you have a financial or other record hold you will not be able to request a transcript until holds are cleared. A hold can only be cleared/removed by the department that placed it. Information on record holds can be checked through your Student Center. For more information on transcripts, see Section 9.6.
December and May graduates are combined into one graduating class for the purposes of ranking. The graduation class rank is computed once per year after all grades for spring semester have been processed and final GPAs calculated (usually early July). August graduates do not receive a graduation class rank but may rely on the law school ranking tables.
To obtain a statement of class rank, graduates should make a request in writing to the Law School Registrar, Room 5107 Law School, 975 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706, or at email@example.com.
Elections to the Order of the Coif are made once a year, combining December, May and August graduates into one election. Notifications of election to the Order of the Coif are usually sent in late fall, so December graduates wait almost a full year to learn whether or not they have been elected to the Order. Graduates must keep email and mailing addresses current on MyUW in order to receive notification of election and Coif certificates. For more information on the Order of the Coif, please see Section 9.7 Honors and Awards.
Wisconsin Bar admission via diploma privilege requires that the Application for Character and Fitness Certification be filed with the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners. As a rule, for May graduates the application early filing date is December 15, with applications accepted until the final deadline of July 1; for December graduates the early filing date is July 15, applications accepted until the final deadline of February 1; for August graduates the early filing date is March 15, applications are accepted until the final deadline of October 1. (If the final deadline falls on a weekend the BBE may choose to extend the deadline). If you miss the final deadline altogether, you will have forfeited the opportunity to apply for Diploma Privilege and will have to sit for the Wisconsin Bar Examination.
There is a significant financial incentive to file an application by the early filing date. An application is considered filed when all three of the following items have been received: (1) the application form; (2) the authorization and release form; and (3) the filing fee. Students who have been cleared for Wisconsin Bar admission via diploma privilege have up to one year from the date of graduation to be admitted. There are no exceptions to this rule. Information and filing instructions along with the application packet are available at the Wisconsin Supreme Court Board of Bar Examiners website: https://www.wicourts.gov/forms1/bbe.htm.
For detailed information on the diploma privilege, please refer to Section 4.7 Diploma Privilege: Character & Fitness Certification.
December and May graduates who have been cleared for Wisconsin Bar admission under the diploma privilege and for whom all grades (temporary or final) are received may take part in the respective group bar-admission ceremonies (see below, and also Section 4.8).
Federal Bar admission for the Western District of Wisconsin takes place on the same day as the Wisconsin Bar admission for May graduates. See Section 4.9 Admission to the Bar of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. Graduates who will be practicing in Milwaukee will be in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Admission is purely voluntary and may be handled by mail at a later time. See Section 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.
Applying for Bar Exams in States other than Wisconsin, see Section 4.12 Bar Admission in States Other Than Wisconsin. All forms and certificates that are to be completed by the Law School should be sent to Registrar Amy Arntsen.
The swearing-in ceremonies are not part of the graduation events and not held on the same day as the graduation ceremonies.
The swearing-in ceremonies for admission to the Wisconsin and federal courts, held a few weeks after graduation, are important events for graduates. The courts set the date and notify graduates. These are formal ceremonies and professional business attire is required. There are group swearing-in ceremonies for the Wisconsin state courts for May and December graduates. August graduates receive information about scheduling swearing-in ceremonies after submitting their applications to the Board of Bar Examiners. There is a group swearing-in for U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin for May graduates.
- Group Swearing-In for May Graduates: These ceremonies are under the authority of the courts and not the Law School. Please direct questions to the particular court.
State of Wisconsin:To participate in the group swearing-in ceremony, students must file their Application for Character and Fitness Certification to the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners according to a schedule set by the board and their applications must be deemed complete by the board staff. Those unable to complete their files in time for the group swearing-in will receive information from the board about scheduling their swearing-in once they complete their application files. The Dean's Certificate is automatically sent to the BBE for all graduates. You do not need to request this document for admissison to the Wisconsin Bar.
The group swearing-in ceremonies for the Wisconsin state courts take place in the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers at the State Capitol and last approximately one hour. Graduates are divided into groups of approximately 30-35. Final group assignments are not set until the week before the ceremony. The Board of Bar Examiners notifies participants of the time of their ceremony.
After being sworn in at the Supreme Court, participants must sign the Supreme Court’s Roll of Attorneys and turn in a completed enrollment form. Afterward, there is a reception for the graduates, families and friends, usually at the Madison Club, sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Those unable to make the group swearing-in for admission of diploma-privilege students should contact the Board of Bar Examiners at 608-266-9760 and see 4.11 Diploma Privilege: Other Swearing-in Options.
U.S. District Court: The group swearing-in ceremony for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin is held at the Robert W. Kastenmeier U.S. Courthouse, 120 North Henry St., Madison, and usually takes place a few hours after the state court ceremony. Please arrive at least 15 minutes before the ceremony to allow time to go through the security check and get to the second floor. You must have been already admitted to the State Bar of Wisconsin by being sworn-in before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in order to be admitted to the Western District.
Those not planning to participate in the U.S. District Court group swearing-in ceremony who wish to be admitted later can make arrangements with the District Court. See Section 4.9 Admission to the Bar of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. Those wishing to be admitted to the Eastern District should contact the Milwaukee office directly. See Section 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.
Other Options: For other swearing-in options, including early admission and out-of-state swearing-in, see Section 4.11 Diploma Privilege: Other Swearing-in Options.
Group Swearing-In for December Graduates: This ceremony is under the authority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, not the Law School. Usually the ceremony is combined with the swearing-in of the Marquette University December graduates. To participate in the group swearing-in ceremony, students must file their Application for Character and Fitness Certification to the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners according to the schedule set by the board, and the applicant files must be deemed complete by board staff. Students unable to complete their files in time for the group swearing-in will receive information from the board about scheduling their swearing-in once they complete their application files.
The group swearing-in ceremony for the Wisconsin state courts takes place in the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers at the State Capitol. The Board of Bar Examiners will notify participants about the time of the ceremony. After the Supreme Court swearing-in, participants must sign the Supreme Court’s Roll of Attorneys and turn in their completed enrollment form. Those unable to make the group swearing-in time should contact the Board of Bar Examiners at 608-266-9760 or see the other swearing-in options.
For other swearing-in options, including early admission and out-of-state swearing-in, see Section 4.11 Diploma Privilege: Other Swearing-in Options.
There is no group swearing-in for the U.S. District Court for December graduates. See Section 4.9 Admission to the Bar of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Visit the Office of Career & Professional Development for more information.
View the Law School's Financial Aid Information for graduating law students, including information on loan repayment and understanding your rights and responsibilities as a borrower.
For those entering Fall 2016 and after: JD/Diploma Privilege Graduation Credit Evaluation Worksheet (PDF) (best viewed using Adobe Acrobat)
For those entering Fall 2013 through Fall 2015: JD/Diploma Privilege Graduation Credit Evaluation Worksheet (PDF) (best viewed using Adobe Acrobat)