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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ex-Big Law Associate Who Flunked Bar Can Proceed With Suit Against Examiners

WycheFollowing up on my previous post, Harvard Grad Who Flunked Bar Sues Over Loss Of Big-Law Job:  American Lawyer, Ex-Big Law Associate Who Flunked Bar Can Proceed With Suit Against Examiners:

A former Ropes & Gray associate and Harvard Law School grad who failed the bar exam twice can move ahead with parts of her federal lawsuit against the New York State Board of Law Examiners.

Tamara Wyche sued the board and its individual members in 2016, claiming the board's denial of testing accommodations, which she received in law school, caused her to fail the attorney licensing exam and lose her lucrative associate job at Ropes & Gray.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie of the Eastern District of New York formally dismissed two of Wyche's four claims — brought under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law — in a Sept. 25 opinion [T.W. v. New York State Board of Law Examiners, No. 16-CV-3029 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2017)], although Wyche already had agreed to withdraw those claims.

But Dearie deferred ruling on her two remaining claims — alleged violations of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — in order to allow for discovery into whether they are barred under New York's sovereign immunity.

"We are confident that the law is on our side," said attorney Jo Anne Simon, who is representing Wyche....

According to her initial complaint, filed under her full name, Wyche was diagnosed with anxiety and depression as a first-year student at Harvard Law School. She also experienced memory problems and cognitive difficulties as the result of several head injuries. While at Harvard, she was granted 50 percent additional time on tests, a separate testing room, and extra break time, at the recommendation of her doctor.

She asked for those same accommodations on the July 2013 New York bar exam, but was given only extra break time and a smaller testing room that was not entirely private. She alleges that she had a panic attack during the exam, and that she subsequently failed. Wyche claimed that her exam failure damaged her reputation at Ropes & Gray, where she had begun working as an associate.

She again failed the 2014 July bar exam, having received 50 percent extra time and a smaller testing room, but no extra breaks. Ropes & Gray then terminated her employment.

yche passed the February 2015 bar exam after receiving double time to complete the exam, but the damage had been done, Simon said. "Once you are in a big, white-shoe law firm and you're forced to leave, you are out of sync," Simon said. "The likelihood of getting another job at a big firm is slim to none. This has really derailed her career." Wyche has since been working in temporary attorney and independent contracting positions, according to Simon.

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At what point can the world quit making "accommodations" for people who can't do the job without them?

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Oct 4, 2017 4:07:48 AM

Did she sue Ropes & Gray too?

Posted by: Enrique Guerra-Pujol | Oct 4, 2017 6:58:07 AM

AS a disabled attorney, this is disturbing. I had always thought that the concept of "disability" is meant to encompass more severe impairments or illnesses. Lots of people have anxiety attacks and can successfully pass the bar exam without special accomodations. Similarly, lots of profoundly disabled people need help with daily tasks. As a disabled person, I don't regard this woman as needing particular assistance in performing the daily living tasks that frustrate disabled people.

Posted by: UNT Grad | Oct 4, 2017 8:01:55 AM

Whatever the fallout from getting canned from a big law firm becomes orders of magitude worse by filling frivilious lawsuits against the state bar. Essentially having your name tied via good search to bar failure and anxiety is the kiss of death.

Not to mention: do judges give accommodations or special privileges for disabilities and anxity disorders? If not, she should have gone into another profession.

Posted by: The Prince | Oct 4, 2017 8:02:14 AM

I know that State Boards of Law Examiners are watching this case with great interest. I echo the sentiments of "The Prince." Will States ultimately be required to lower the minimum standard of care for those shoe-horned by "accommodation" or will these accommodated be held at the same standard as all other attorneys as I believe is the status of law practice today?

Posted by: Tom N | Oct 4, 2017 3:26:09 PM