Deadline for admission.
Waiver of requirements.
Fee waiver for qualified veterans.
APPENDIX Rules of the Board of Bar Examiners.
SCR 40 Note
Judicial Council Committee's Note, 1979: The following rules govern admissions to the state bar of Wisconsin. SCR 40.02 and 40.03 are sections 757.28 and 757.282 of the 1977 Wisconsin Statutes. SCR 40.01 and 40.04 to 40.14 were originally adopted by the supreme court on June 3, 1940, effective June 3, 1940. They were amended on January 11, 1960; March 8, 1966; December 5, 1968; May 3, 1971, and May 24, 1971. The rules were originally numbered I to XIII and have been clarified and numbered SCR 40.01 and 40.04 to 40.14 for uniformity and convenience. Former rule XII relating to exemption to these rules has been repealed as it was applicable to applicants for admission to the bar by examination who received an acceptable law degree by 1971. SCR 40.15 was derived from section 757.29 (1), 1977 stats. SCR 40.16 was derived from several rules pertaining to fees.
SCR 40 Note
Note: SCR Chapter 40 was amended December 29, 1980; February 17, 1981; July 1, 1986; September 1, 1988; January 1, 1990; January 1, 1991; May 13, 1991; October 21, 1991; May 7, 1992; December 10, 1992; December 16, 1992; June 14, 1993; December 8, 1993; October 1, 1995; November 3, 1995; June 4, 1998; September 1, 1998; September 1, 2000; April 10, 2001; January 17, 2008; January 1, 2009; June 1, 2009; April 1, 2011; June 8, 2011; September 15, 2011; December 1, 2012; April 19, 2013; July 1, 2017; September 27, 2017; August 1, 2019; January 1, 2020.
SCR 40.01 Definitions; list of law schools. 40.01(1)(1)
In this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
“Board" means the board of bar examiners.
“Clerk" means the clerk of the supreme court.
) “Electronic application system" means a web-based system established by the board of bar examiners through which individuals may electronically file an original or amended application under this chapter.
) “Electronic signature" means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronically-filed application that can be executed or adopted by the applicant with the intent to sign the application under oath or affirmation.
The board shall maintain a record of all law schools which are approved by the American bar association, together with the date of such approval, and those which are not so approved. The record shall constitute an official record of the supreme court and proof of the fact that the law schools therein stated as approved by the American bar association were so approved at the times therein stated.
SCR 40.01 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 11-02
, 2011 WI 90, 336 Wis. 2d xiii.
SCR 40.02 Qualifications generally.
A person who meets all of the following qualifications shall be admitted to practice law in this state by order of the supreme court:
Has attained the age of majority under the law of this state.
Satisfies the legal competence requirements by diploma privilege (SCR 40.03), bar examination (SCR 40.04 or SCR 40.055) or practice elsewhere (SCR 40.05).
Satisfies the character and fitness requirements set forth in SCR 40.06.
Takes the oath or affirmation prescribed in SCR 40.15 in open court before the supreme court or a justice thereof or before a member of the highest court of another jurisdiction or a person authorized by that jurisdiction to administer the attorney's oath for bar admission there or before a judge of the U.S. District Court or Court of Appeals or a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Subscribes the roll of attorneys maintained by the clerk of the supreme court or has his or her name entered thereon by the clerk.
SCR 40.02 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 95-15
, 196 Wis. 2d xv (1995); Sup. Ct. Order No. 11-08
, 2012 WI 113, filed 11-1-12, eff. 12-1-12.
SCR 40.02 Note
Case Notes: A candidate for admission to the bar bears the burden of proof to establish the qualifications for admission under this section. In Matter of Bar Admission of Rippl, 2002 WI 15
, 250 Wis. 2d 519
, 639 N.W.2d 553
SCR 40.02 Annotation
A candidate for admission to the bar of this state bears the burden of proof to establish his or her qualifications under SCR 40.02. There is no presumption that an applicant for admission to the Wisconsin bar has the appropriate character and fitness to be admitted and specifically no presumption in favor of finding that an applicant possesses the requisite character and fitness simply because a sister state has already so determined. Littlejohn v. BBE, 2003 WI 36
, 261 Wis. 2d 183
, 661 N.W.2d 183
SCR 40.03 Legal competence requirement: Diploma privilege.
An applicant who has been awarded a first professional degree in law from a law school in this state that is fully, not provisionally, approved by the American bar association shall satisfy the legal competence requirement by presenting to the clerk certification of the board showing:
Satisfactory completion of legal studies leading to the first professional degree in law. The law school shall certify to the board satisfactory completion of not less than 84 semester credits earned by the applicant for purposes of the degree awarded.
Satisfactory completion of study in mandatory and elective subject matter areas. The law school shall certify to the board satisfactory completion of not less than 60 semester credits in the mandatory and elective subject matter areas as provided in (a) and (b). All semester credits so certified shall have been earned in regular law school courses having as their primary and direct purpose the study of rules and principles of substantive and procedural law as they may arise in the courts and administrative agencies of the United States and this state.
(a) Elective subject matter areas; 60-credit rule.
Not less than 60 semester credits shall have been earned in regular law school courses in the subject matter areas generally known as: Administrative law, appellate practice and procedure, commercial transactions, conflict of laws, constitutional law, contracts, corporations, creditors' rights, criminal law and procedure, damages, domestic relations, equity, evidence, future interests, insurance, jurisdiction of courts, legislation, labor law, ethics and legal responsibilities of the profession, partnership, personal property, pleading and practice, public utilities, quasi-contracts, real property, taxation, torts, trade regulation, trusts, and wills and estates. The 60-credit subject matter requirement may be satisfied by combinations of the curricular offerings in each approved law school in this state.
(b) Mandatory subject matter areas; 30-credit rule.
Not less than 30 of the 60 semester credits shall have been earned in regular law school courses in each of the following subject matter areas: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, jurisdiction of courts, ethics and legal responsibilities of the legal profession, pleading and practice, real property, torts, and wills and estates.
(c) Law school certification of subject matter content of curricular offerings.
Upon the request of the supreme court, the dean of each such law school shall file with the clerk a certified statement setting forth the courses taught in the law school which satisfy the requirements for a first professional degree in law, together with a statement of the percentage of time devoted in each course to the subject matter of the areas of law specified in this rule.
SCR 40.03 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 95-07
, 192 Wis. 2d xix (1995); Sup. Ct. Order No. 11-08
, 2012 WI 113, filed 11-1-12, eff. 12-1-12.
SCR 40.04 Legal competence requirement: Bar examination. 40.04(1)(1)
An applicant who has been awarded a first professional degree in law from one of the following shall satisfy the legal competence requirement by presenting to the clerk certification of the board that the applicant has passed an examination administered by the board covering all or part of the subject matter areas of law specified in SCR 40.03 (2) (a):
A law school that is fully or provisionally approved by the American bar association at the time of the applicant's graduation.
A law school whose graduates are eligible to take the bar examination of the state, territory or District of Columbia in which the law school is located, provided the applicant has passed the bar examination of and has been admitted to practice in that or another state, territory or the District of Columbia.
The board shall administer an examination consisting of the Multistate Bar Examination developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, an essay examination developed by the board and such other elements as the board may deem appropriate for the assessment of lawyer competence.
An applicant shall file all application materials and fees with the board by the December 1 preceding the February examination and by the May 1 preceding the July examination except that, on payment of a late fee, application materials and fees shall be filed by the January 1 preceding the February examination and by the June 1 preceding the July examination.
An applicant who seeks testing accommodation shall submit with the application a written request that shall describe the type of accommodation requested and the reasons for the requested accommodation, including medical documentation. If the request is denied in whole or in part, the board's response shall state the reasons. Denial of a request for testing accommodation, in whole or in part, constitutes an adverse determination that may be appealed pursuant to SCR 40.08 (6) and (7).
The board, in its discretion, may permit an applicant who has not yet been awarded a first professional degree in law to take the examination if it is reasonably anticipated that the applicant will receive that degree within 60 days after the examination.
The board shall provide to each applicant prior to the examination a list of topics taken from the areas of law specified in SCR 40.03 (2) (a) from which the essay portion of the examination will be drawn.
The board shall establish the passing score for the bar examination in advance of each examination and shall advise each applicant of the score so established.
An unsuccessful examinee who files a written request with the board within 90 days of mailing of notice by the board of failure of the examination shall be entitled to inspect the examinee's essay examination paper.
SCR 40.04 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 97-09
xix, 218 Wis. 2d (1998); Sup. Ct. Order No. 07-04
, 2008 WI 5, filed and eff. 1-17-08; Sup. Ct. Order No. 18-07
, 2019 WI 32, filed 3-25-19, eff. 8-1-19.
SCR 40.04 Note
Case Notes: Sub. (7) does not prevent the Board form establishing a separate passing score for the essay portion of the bar examination, in addition to the overall passing score for the entire examination. Bar Admission of Spott, 2000 WI 10
, 232 Wis. 2d 673
, 605 N.W.2d 553
SCR 40.04 Annotation
An applicant to the bar pursuant to SCR 40.05 may simultaneously maintain an application to sit for the bar exam pursuant to this section. Bar Admission of Helgemo, 2002 WI 57
, 253 Wis. 2d 82
, 644 N.W.2d 912
SCR 40.05 Legal competence requirement: Proof of practice. 40.05(1)(1)
An applicant shall satisfy the legal competence requirement by presenting to the clerk certification of the board that the applicant has provided all of the following:
Proof of admission to practice law by a court of last resort in any other state or territory or the District of Columbia.
Proof that the applicant has been substantially engaged in the practice of law in a state or territory, the federal government, the District of Columbia, or a federally recognized Indian tribe for 3 years within the last 5 years prior to filing application for admission. A lawyer may satisfy this requirement by proof of practice in more than a single jurisdiction and under more than one provision of this rule.
Legal service as corporate counsel or legal service as a trust officer, or lawfully before the courts or administrative agencies of a state or territory, the federal government, the District of Columbia, or a federally recognized Indian tribe, if conducted in compliance with the rules where the applicant was admitted to practice law, is the practice of law for the purposes of this section.
Legal service as corporate counsel in Wisconsin under SCR 10.03 (4) (f) is the practice of law for the purposes of sub. (1) (b). Provided a timely registration is filed, all such service conducted prior to filing the registration may be counted for purposes of sub. (1) (b).
The following activities, whether or not conducted in a state or territory, the federal government or the District of Columbia where the applicant was admitted to practice law, may be deemed to be the practice of law for the purposes of sub. (1) (b):
Service as a judge of a court of record of the United States, any state or territory or the District of Columbia.
Legal service with any local or state government or with the federal government.
Legal service in the armed forces of the United States.
Teaching in any law school approved by the American bar association.
Legal service in any federally recognized Indian tribe.
Service as a judge for any federally recognized Indian tribe.
An applicant who has failed the Wisconsin bar examination shall not be eligible for admission on proof of practice elsewhere.
SCR 40.05 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 08-07
, 2009 WI 3, 311 Wis. 2d xiii; Sup. Ct. Order No. 16-09
, 2017 WI 88, filed and eff. 9-27-17.
Effective date note
2017 Comment: Supreme Court Rule 40.05 was amended by S. Ct. Order 16-09, 2017 WI 88
(issued Sep. 27, 2017, eff. Sep. 27, 2017) to broadly include, for purposes of this rule, legal practice associated with federally recognized Indian tribes. The amendment encompasses and is not limited to: counsel employed by a federally recognized Indian tribe; and counsel who are not necessarily employed by a tribe but represent tribal members, practice lawfully before tribal courts, or serve as a judge for a federally recognized Indian tribe.
SCR 40.05 Note
Sup. Ct. Order No. 16-09
states that “the Comment above is not adopted, but will be published and may be consulted for guidance in interpreting and applying this rule.”
SCR 40.05 Note
Case Notes: Because Indiana's “foreign license" admission is not based on an applicant's prior out of state practice but on continued practice in Indiana, an applicant is ineligible for admission on the basis of Indiana practice. Bar Admission of Wadsworth, 190 Wis. 2d 576
, 527 N.W.2d 311
SCR 40.05 Annotation
Legal service as corporate counsel does not qualify as the active practice of law unless it is conducted in a state where the applicant is admitted to practice law, or the legal work was the kind of work generally engaged in by attorneys primarily engaged in the active practice of law in the courts of another jurisdiction. Bar Admission of Mostkoff, 2005 WI 33
, 279 Wis. 2d 249
, 693 N.W.2d 748
SCR 40.055 Legal competence requirement: graduates of law schools in other nations.
Notwithstanding SCR 40.04 (1), an individual who has received a law degree in a country other than the United States may apply to take the Wisconsin bar examination, provided the applicant satisfies all of the requirements of subs. (1) or (2):
The applicant holds a first professional degree in law from a jurisdiction whose jurisprudence is based on the principles of English common law and from a school or schools each of which, throughout the period of the applicant's study, was recognized by a competent accrediting agency in such country as qualified and approved, and meets all of the following requirements:
The applicant has a license to practice law from a common-law jurisdiction and is in good standing in that jurisdiction.
The applicant has been substantially engaged in the practice of law in a common law jurisdiction for at least three of the last ten years prior to filing an application to take the Wisconsin bar examination.
The applicant holds a first professional degree in law from a school or schools each of which, throughout the period of the applicant's study, was recognized by a competent accrediting agency in such country as qualified and approved, and the applicant has completed a masters of law degree (L.L.M.) that meets all of the following requirements:
The program consists of a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit, or the equivalent thereof, if the law school is on an academic schedule other than a conventional semester system that, except as otherwise permitted in this rule, shall be in classroom courses at the law school in substantive and procedural law and professional skills. No credit shall be allowed for correspondence courses, on-line courses, courses offered on DVD or other media, or other distance learning courses.
The program requires a minimum of 700 minutes of instruction time, exclusive of examination time, for the granting of one semester hour of credit.
The program includes a period of instruction consisting of no fewer than two semesters of at least 13 calendar weeks each, or the equivalent thereof, exclusive of reading periods, examinations and breaks, and shall not be completed exclusively during summer semesters, except that a maximum of six semester hours of credit may be earned in courses completed during summer semesters.
The program is completed within 24 months of enrollment.
Unless otherwise waived by the board, all coursework for the program is completed at the campus of an American bar association approved law school in the United States.
The program completed by an applicant includes all of the following:
A minimum of two semester hours of credit in the values and ethical responsibilities of the United States legal profession and its members.
A minimum of two semester hours of credit in legal research, writing and analysis, which may not be satisfied by a research and writing requirement in a substantive law course.
A minimum of two semester hours of credit in American legal studies, the American legal system or a similar course designed to introduce students to distinctive aspects and/or fundamental principles of United States law, which may be satisfied by a course in United States constitutional law or United States or state civil procedure.
A minimum of six semester hours of credit in any of the subjects included in SCR 40.03 (2) (a) or (b).
The program completed by an applicant may include:
A maximum of four semester hours of credit in clinical courses, provided all of the following requirements are met:
The clinical course includes a classroom instructional component in order to insure contemporaneous discussion, review and evaluation of the clinical experience;
The clinical work is done under the direct supervision of a member of the law school faculty or instructional staff whose primary professional employment is with the law school; and
The time and effort required and anticipated educational benefit are commensurate with the credit awarded.