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).
I completely agree that the the diploma privilege does a disservice to Marquette and UW law grads by creating tunnel vision in a job search. I base this on my own personal experience as a Marquette law grad and anecdotal evidence from colleagues. I also think the diploma privilege probably hurts the Wisconsin bar overall because there is no minimal safeguard against incompetence.
However, I’ll point out the obvious that ending the diploma privilege isn’t going to “help” Arnie Mancuso. If someone fails the bar exam four friggin times, they shouldn’t be allowed to practice law! Even though I never took the bar exam, I still have the ability to recognize sour grapes.
Thanks, Jason. Although, I may not draw the same conclusions from failure to pass the bar that you do. It assumes that the bar exam does a good job measuring fitness to practice. We might examine that assumption. If you recall from class, the most important determinant of good lawyering was passion/compassion. The bar exam doesn’t measure that! Eric.
The guy’s name is Arnie Moncada not Mancuso
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