Letter From Deans of 20 California Law Schools to California Supreme Court and State Bar:
We write now to make three requests.
(1) We recognize the importance of thinking carefully and seriously about how to proceed. As deans of California’s ABA accredited law schools, who train a significant majority of the state’s lawyers, we offer our assistance in the discussion of options and the review of the implications of each option for our students, our community of lawyers, and the communities of citizens who need the services of lawyers. The decisions that must be made about the July bar exam will have enormous implications for all those constituencies. We believe that our input can help the Committee of Bar Examiners and the Court resolve the difficult issues that surround this decision.
(2) We further recommend that California not rush to make a definitive decision about how to proceed, and especially not move to cancel or postpone July’s exam without planning for an alternative pathway for licensing new attorneys. We know that a closed Emergency CBE meeting has been called for tomorrow, March 29th, to discuss the bar exam. We commend the CBE for beginning this process when there is still time for discussion and deliberation, and we hope that no action will be taken without a process of consultation with us and others, including legal employers in the private and public sectors as well as public interest lawyers.
(3) As the Court and the CBE work to address this critical situation, we hope that you will be open to considering a variety of alternatives. We recognize the need for ensuring minimum competency, but equally for creative thinking and ingenuity. We are also well aware that we potentially face an extended period of some degree of disruption. We are concerned that New York’s decision to postpone its bar exam until some undeclared date in the fall will cause as many new problems as it will solve. For example, there is no assurance that large convention halls will be safe then, either—and what then? We are concerned that the backlog of bar exams and results, as well as the licensing of attorneys, could be deferred for an indefinite period of time, to the detriment not only of our students but of employers, clients and access to justice.
Students Letter To California State Bar:
We are a collective of law students who have recently graduated law school or will graduate in May 2020 and who plan on practicing law in California, as well as professors of California law schools and practitioners in California. We urge the California State Bar Admissions Board to adapt to the current crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by revising the state licensing system in California to ensure that the legal needs of our communities are met during this uncertain time. Specifically, we respectfully request that the Admissions Board enact a diploma privilege for all recent graduates and 2020 graduates who plan on taking the July 2020 Bar Exam and practicing law in California. ...
Diploma privilege is feasible. After all, California enacted diploma privilege after the 1906 California earthquake and during WWII. The emergency diploma privilege is a superior alternative to postponement because it provides greater certainty and job security for law school graduates and employers and greater choice for clients.
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