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BOG opposes diploma privilege petition

The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors has officially declared its opposition to attempts to get rid of Wisconsin’s diploma privilege.

At its most recent meeting, the board voted 32-6 to oppose a petition that seeks to either expand or eliminate the ability of graduates from Wisconsin’s two law schools to become licensed attorneys without taking a bar exam.

On Sept. 30, the state Supreme Court reviewed the petition, which would eliminate the words “in this state” wherever they are found in Supreme Court Rule 40.03, thereby extending the diploma privilege to graduates of all ABA accredited law schools in the country.

If the court rejects that option, the 71 Wisconsin attorneys who filed the petition want the rule abolished. Wisconsin is the only state which has the diploma privilege.

The board adopted the following motion: “The State Bar opposes the petition to amend or repeal SCR 40.03. To that end, the State Bar of Wisconsin recognizes the benefits of the teaching of Wisconsin-specific law at the state’s two law schools which better prepares graduates for the practice of law in Wisconsin.

Accordingly, the State Bar supports continuation of the diploma privilege, which will continue the tradition of ensuring the teaching of Wisconsin law in law school.”

Other actions taken by the board at the Sept. 24-25 meeting in Minocqua included:

By a unanimous vote, the board supported a proposal by the Professional Ethics Committee to ask the Supreme Court to modify SCR 22.24 to allow referees in disciplinary proceedings to make recommendations on assessment and division of attorney costs involved, as well as allow for the lawyer subject to discipline the chance to respond to the proposed costs.

While the current rule gives the court the authority to assess and divide costs, the proposed change will allow for a more informed decision, said Dean R. Dietrich, chair of the Ethics Committee.

“The thought is that referees should make a recommendation because they are the ones who see what charges are litigated, how much time is spent on them and what the focus of the presentation is,” he said.

The Supreme Court will review the proposed amendment at an open administrative conference on Oct. 4.

In his first meeting as President of the State Bar, James C. Boll, Jr. launched five new committees designed to promote internal socialization amongst bar members as well as enhance the overall image and relationship of the bar with the public. The new committees are:

Bylaws Revisions (Chairperson, Nate Cade): Review and offer updates and improvements to the rules and bylaws of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Governance Committee (Chairperson, Fritz Kaftan): Create a Board structure and process that will ensure that the Board of Governors is doing its work effectively and efficiently in order to strengthen the organization and the profession.

BOG Policy Committee (Chairperson, Frank Remington): Provide leadership and guidance to the Board of Governors on public policy matters relating to the overall mission of the Bar and the administration of justice.

Committee on Committees (Chairperson, Patricia Struck): Provide a recommendation on how State Bar work groups should be structured to support the strategic directions established by the Board of Governors.

Challenges to the Profession (Chairperson, Kim Haines): Determine the manner in which the State Bar can assist, guide, and lead Wisconsin attorneys to recognize and adapt to the challenges facing the practice of law now and into the future.

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at

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