VICTORY: State Bar Abandons DEI Program After WILL Lawsuit

Settlement with WILL changes definition of “diversity,” and now all law students are eligible to participate in the Diversity Clerkship Program

The News: Today, the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) reached a settlement agreement ending discriminatory DEI practices at the State Bar. Now, our client’s mandatory and annual State Bar dues will not fund internships and policies primarily based on race, but rather on merit and diversity of viewpoint.

The Quotes: WILL Associate Counsel, Skylar Croy, remarked, “Defeating unconstitutional DEI programs has become WILL’s area of expertise, and we are not stopping here. 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.”

WILL Client, Daniel Suhr, added, “Premier internship opportunities should be available to students based on merit—not race. I am proud to partner with WILL to set a strong precedent for the next generation of law students.”

UW Law Student, Samatha Crane, commented, “This settlement brings a much-needed change to the Diversity Clerkship Program as it will now give all law students an equal opportunity. Diversity programs must consider much more than one’s race and sex in their candidate evaluations. True diversity lies within one’s individual experiences and the unique perspectives one can offer.”

UW Law Student, George Clark, stated, “This settlement offers all students—regardless of race—a fair shot at competitive opportunities. There is much work to do, but I am optimistic the Wisconsin State Bar will follow the law. Hopefully, the Bar will care more about having greater diversity of thought rather than hitting quotas.”

Background: WILL client, Daniel Suhr, is an accomplished trial and appellate attorney in Wisconsin. Like all Wisconsin attorneys, Daniel Suhr must be a member of the Bar and pay hundreds of dollars to it each year just to work in his chosen profession. Suhr objects to his dues being used to fund an illegal clerkship program that discriminates based on race.

The Settlement: The Wisconsin State Bar will open its Diversity Clerkship Program to all first-year law students attending either Marquette University Law School or the University of Wisconsin Law School who are in good standing. All promotional, explanatory, or other materials created by the State Bar must clearly state that such students are all eligible to participate in the Diversity Clerkship Program regardless of race.

The State Bar cannot state, suggest, or insinuate in its promotional materials that only law students from diverse backgrounds, with backgrounds that have been historically excluded from the legal field, or who have been socially disadvantaged are eligible.

The State Bar will also adopt a new definition of the term “diversity.” This was the Bar’s old definition, which was the basis for the lawsuit:

The term ‘diversity’ has a dynamic meaning that evolves as the demographics in the state change. It is an inclusive concept that encompasses, among other things, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation and disability. Inclusion helps to create a culture that embraces people from the widest range of talent and experience and promotes understanding and respect for all people and different points of view in the legal profession.

In accordance with the settlement, this new definition will apply to the Diversity Clerkship Program:

‘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 State Bar must prominently display this new definition on the main webpage for the Diversity Clerkship Program.

Though a settlement has been reached, the case will continue on other legal aspects. WILL is still challenging how the State Bar collects dues from all its members.

Beyond Wisconsin: This lawsuit is part of WILL’s nationwide Equality Under the Law Project. Since 2021, WILL attorneys have represented over 50 clients from 18 states. All clients are represented pro bono. Find out more at We believe the lawsuit we filed here in Wisconsin will set a precedent for ending other race-based discrimination programs in bar associations across the country. We plan to work with all who seek true equality under the law.

Read The Settlement Agreement Here. 

Skylar Croy

Skylar Croy

Associate Counsel

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