Wisconsin State Bar Must Keep ‘Diversity’ Internship Open To All After Lawsuit From Conservative Group
Flag of the US State of Wisconsin.
Credit: Manuel Augusto Moreno via Getty Images.

The Wisconsin State Bar Association will amend its language for first-year law student clerk internship requirements after it was sued last year by a conservative group that said the bar was discriminating against students based on race and sexual identity. 

The state bar association reached a partial settlement on Thursday with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group, that had sued the bar in December over its internship programs and definition of diversity which included race as a factor.

“Defeating unconstitutional DEI programs has become WILL’s area of expertise, and we are not stopping here,” WILL Associate Counsel Skylar Croy said in a statement. “While we are pleased with this victory, we know the fight is far from over. In fact, this is only the beginning of a movement, and our lawsuit will provide a roadmap for future victories in all 50 states.”

According to the settlement, the bar will make clear that its “diversity clerkship program” is open to all first-year law students at either Marquette University Law School or the University of Wisconsin Law School. The bar will also no longer include a requirement for that clerkship to go to students with “backgrounds that have been historically excluded from the legal field​​ who are in good standing.” 

WILL sued the bar on behalf of attorney Daniel Suhr, who celebrated the settlement. “Premier internship opportunities should be available to students based on merit — not race,” he said. “I am proud to partner with WILL to set a strong precedent for the next generation of law students.”

Additionally, the bar will adopt a new definition of “diversity” saying: “‘Diversity’ means including people with differing characteristics, beliefs, experiences, interests, and viewpoints. Diversity promotes an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their differences and without regard to stereotypes, and helps to ensure a better understanding and consideration of the needs and viewpoints of others with whom we interact.”


The bar’s previous definition of diversity included race, ethnicity, and sexual identity among other factors. The settlement agreement adds that “Defendants expressly deny all Allegations relating to the Diversity Clerkship Program in the Lawsuit.”

“The settlement clarifies the definition of ‘diversity’ but makes no changes to the program,” said Larry J. Martin, the bar association executive director. “The Diversity Clerkship Program, which has been creating opportunities for Wisconsin-based law students for three decades, will continue to exist and to operate in its current form.”

Despite the settlement, WILL is still challenging the dues collection process for the Wisconsin State Bar Association. 

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