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Letter to the editor: Conditional admission rule is a win-win

To the editor:

While I welcome the coverage the Wisconsin Law Journal in the June 27, 2011, edition afforded to the new conditional admission rule adopted last month by the state Supreme Court, I hope that your readers will not be distracted by the possible implication of the article, that the new CA rule is somehow intended to (or likely to) put further hurdles in front of applicants for admission to the bar.

Both the State Bar’s Board of Bar Examiners Review Committee and the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program Committee actively advocated in favor of the CA concept due to our concern about the loss of otherwise promising applicants who were previously denied admission due to their history of impairment impacting their fitness to practice and their inability to document ongoing recovery efforts.

It is, of course, possible that some applicants who might otherwise have been admitted to practice under prior rules will now fall within the purview of the new CA rule. However, all new members, including those admitted conditionally, enjoy both the full privileges of membership and guaranteed confidentiality. They will also benefit from the reinforcement of their ongoing recovery activities afforded by the new program.

In fact, a confidential conditional admission program creates an incentive for new attorneys to continue their treatment programs and is a more attractive option than a petition for review, where the Supreme Court may issue a published opinion that includes sensitive information about affected attorneys.

This new rule, in short, is a win-win for the legal community and the public. It offers prospective attorneys with impairment issues a clear path toward a fulfilling legal career and it gives the BBE a new option to admit those attorneys while also protecting the public through active monitoring of each CA member’s progress.

BBE members and staff are working closely with the State Bar’s WisLAP committee and staff to ensure that consistent and effective standards are developed to monitor and assist all new members admitted on a conditional basis.

— James R. Cole
member and past co-chairman,
State Bar WisLAP Committee

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