Inactive status is for those members who are eligible for active status but are not currently practicing law in Wisconsin and have filed a written request for inactive status. There are no continuing legal education requirements during the time you are on the inactive status. State Bar dues and Supreme Court assessments are one-half of the full active rate. Inactive members are exempt from the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection and Public Interest Legal Services Fund assessments. Inactive members still receive member benefits. If you are an active member and claim the exemption on the continuing legal education form, this does not change your membership status to inactive. Likewise, checking the box on your annual dues statement that indicates you are not practicing law does not change you to inactive status. Making a written request to the State Bar is the only way to make a change to inactive status. A written request can include modifying your annual dues statement by crossing out your current member type and writing "inactive" on the form.
To become an active member, you'll need to receive authorization from the Board of Bar Examiners. You must contact the Board of Bar Examiners to determine if you have any make-up CLE requirements you'll be required to complete to receive your authorization. If you've been inactive for more than ten consecutive years, you'll also be required to show proof of an active license from another state within the last ten years or petition the Supreme Court. Once authorized by the Board of Bar Examiners, you'll be able to activate your license with the State Bar of Wisconsin. At the time of activation, you'll need to pay additional State Bar dues and Supreme Court assessments to bring you up to the active level of payment. Once activated, you will again be subject to the continuing legal education requirements.
If you'll be leaving Wisconsin, there are a few things you should take care of. The first thing you should do is contact the State Bar and inform us of your new mailing address (you may do this online - click here). This will ensure delivery of important mailings such as your annual dues statement and your continuing legal education mailings. You will also want to determine whether inactive or active status is best for you. Many members retain active status to keep their option of practicing in Wisconsin available at all times. This can be done by paying the active fees each year and complying with the continuing legal education requirements.
If you're active on State Bar records, you must comply with Wisconsin's mandatory continuing legal education requirements. Wisconsin's CLE program is administered by the Board of Bar Examiners. Active members must complete 30 credits every two calendar years. Three of those 30 hours need to be in approved course work in the area of legal ethics and professional responsibility (EPR). Exceptions to the 30 hour requirement are lawyers in their first year of admission, inactive lawyers, emeritus lawyers and judicial members. Active members not currently practicing may also be eligible for an exemption (see next question below). Questions regarding the mandatory CLE program in Wisconsin should be directed to the Board of Bar Examiners, 110 E. Main St., Room 715, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 266-9760.
If you are living outside of Wisconsin and you did not practice law in the state of Wisconsin during an entire two year reporting cycle or you are living in Wisconsin but not currently practicing, you may be eligible for an exemption from the attendance requirement for that cycle. You will still need to complete the continuing legal education form every two years. The form contains a section where you will be able to claim exemption for that cycle. Further questions on this matter should be directed to the Board of Bar Examiners.
Yes. If you practice law in Wisconsin during a reporting period, you will need to fulfill the entire 30 hour CLE requirement. This is also true if your practice is primarily pro bono work.
There are no requirements before you can begin practicing in Wisconsin. You need to remember, however, that as soon as you begin practicing in Wisconsin, you'll again be subject to the continuing legal education requirements. You would no longer be eligible for the exemption from credit option you may have previously used. This means you should plan for your activation and allow time to take courses before your next continuing legal education report would be due.
The State Bar does not have a retirement status. We do have the emeritus status, which is for members who are at least 70 years of age and have filed a written request with the State Bar for this status. As an emeritus member, you are allowed all of the privileges of an active license, including the right to practice law in Wisconsin. The benefits of the emeritus status include a waiver of State Bar dues, Supreme Court assessments and the Public Interest Legal Services Fund assessment. We are obligated to collect the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection assessment, in years when there is such an assessment, as emeritus members are licensed to practice law. The other added benefit of emeritus status is the exemption from continuing legal education requirements. Once you are on the State Bar records as an emeritus member, you will no longer be required to take or report continuing legal education requirements. Emeritus status is for any member that has been actively practicing law in the past 2 years, who is over the age of 70.
If you are in the military full time, you may request a waiver of your annual State Bar dues, Supreme Court assessments and Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection payment for up to three fiscal years. This written request must be renewed each year when you receive your billing statement in May. Your continuing legal education requirements would not be affected by your military status. If you are serving in a legal capacity in the military, you are usually required to maintain an active license in at least one state. If you are outside of Wisconsin, the continuing legal education exemption may apply.
If you don't pay the annual mandatory fees, your license in Wisconsin would be suspended and you would no longer be eligible to practice in this state without first reinstating your license by paying your back fees plus a $20 penalty. This suspension is also recorded on your permanent file and does have to be disclosed when applying for licenses in other states. If a member remains suspended for more than three years, reinstatement can be by Supreme Court order only.
Attorneys who wish to receive a certificate of good standing should send a request in writing to the Clerk of the Supreme Court and enclose a check (made out to "Wisconsin Supreme Court") for $3.00 for each certificate requested. The address is:
Clerk of the Supreme Court
110 East Main Street, Suite 215
P.O. Box 1688
Madison, WI 53701-1688
Please include your name, attorney number, and approximate date of admission.
The Supreme Court requires all members to pay annual fees each July 1st. Members should plan for this yearly payment to avoid the possibility of suspension for nonpayment of fees. We also accept credit card payments. If you're still unable to pay the fees, you should contact the State Bar regarding a possible hardship provision before the deadline of July 1. The Executive Director, with the President, will review any hardship cases and possibly make provisions where there are extreme circumstances.
If you've considered all of the options available, such as inactive or emeritus status and you still feel that you would like to give up your Wisconsin license, the proper method is to voluntarily resign. This requires filling out a petition that can be provided to you by the State Bar. This would allow you to relinquish your Wisconsin license without the suspension that would occur if you simply chose not to pay your mandatory fees. The Supreme Court must approve all petitions from members.
For further information on membership topics, please call the State Bar's Membership Line at Phone (608) 257-3838 or (800) 728-7788 or org membership wisbar email.
For more information on CLE credits and reporting, please contact the Board of Bar Examiners, 110 E. Main St., Room 715, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 266-9760.
In U.S. Supreme Court case Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990), and subsequent rulings, mandatory bar associations can use compulsory dues to fund activities “necessarily or reasonably related to the purposes of regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services.” Procedures which implement Keller are found in Wisconsin SCR 10.03(5)(b)1.
Under Keller, the State Bar is permitted to fund lobbying and other activities related to these purposes with mandatory dues. But lobbying and other activities not germane to those purposes cannot be funded with the compulsory dues of objecting members.
In February 2018, the State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors unanimously adopted a policy to include voluntarily all direct lobbying activity on policy matters before the Wisconsin State Legislature or the United States Congress within the Keller rebate calculation, even lobbying activity deemed germane to regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services.
The State Bar of Wisconsin annually calculates the Keller dues rebate amount – the amount used for activities that cannot be funded with mandatory dues – and objecting members can choose to withhold the rebate amount on their annual dues statements.
To find more detailed information for members, visit the Maintaining Your Membership page under the forMembers section (login required).