Wisconsin’s Diploma Privilege Draws More Questions

[July 2009 Update: In response to the Seventh Circuit opinion, I've blogged more about the diploma privilege and Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki]

Wisconsin is the only state that still allows graduates of in-state law schools to become lawyers without taking a bar exam (called the diploma privilege). This creates some interesting dynamics–UW and Marquette graduates have some extra incentives to stay in WI because it means they can avoid a bar exam, and out-of-state graduates/lawyers have to jump through some extra hoops just to get to the same place as in-state graduates.

This dichotomy creates controversy constantly, but it may boll over as the new state bar president has targeted the diploma privilege as part of his agenda. You can see a video on this issue here, focusing on the sad story of Arnie Moncada (name corrected per comment below), who went to Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan, failed the Wisconsin bar 4 times, and now can’t be a lawyer in WI forever…while if he had just graduated from Marquette or UW, he’d be a lawyer now.

Personally, I always thought the diploma privilege did Marquette graduates a disservice–it encouraged students to focus on Wisconsin job opportunities in preference of other great options elsewhere. On the other hand, the diploma privilege helps UW and Marquette in the US News rankings every year (it’s hard to beat 100% “passage”).

(Thanks to Garet Galster for sending this link).