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State Bar of Wisconsin Agrees to Change Diversity Definition in Lawsuit Settlement

The Wisconsin association representing attorneys agreed Thursday to change the definition of “diversity” to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a conservative law firm that argued its internship program unconstitutionally discriminates based on race.

The State Bar of Wisconsin said that under terms of the settlement, its “diversity clerkship program” would continue unchanged under the new definition.

But the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which brought the lawsuit in December, declared victory, saying in a statement that “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 original definition of “diversity” for the Wisconsin program said the concept includes race, ethnicity, gender identity and other factors. The new definition simply says it involves “including people with differing characteristics, beliefs, experiences, interests, and viewpoints.”

Under the deal, the bar association must also clearly say in all materials related to the program that race is not a factor in considering participation in the program, according to the conservative law firm.

The bar association also may not say 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 law firm said.