Petition of Law Professors in support of the Diploma Privilege for 2020 (sign here):
The undersigned law professors urge state supreme courts and bar licensing bodies to adopt a “diploma privilege” for admitting new law graduates to the bar this year: bypass the bar exam and automatically admit to the state bar anyone who graduates from an accredited law school in 2020.
The global Covid-19 pandemic is truly devastating, and requires bold action to protect our society, our communities, and our law students.
The likelihood of safely holding the bar exam anytime soon is low. State bar exams are typically held over a two- to three-day period during which all takers gather in the same large facility. Even if some shelter-in-place and stay-at-home measures can be relaxed over the summer, this type of larger gathering is still the type experts predict should be prohibited for some time to come.
All law schools admitted the present graduating class at least three years ago, and these students proceeded through a rigorous legal education carried out on the universal assumption that graduating students would have to be able to pass the bar exam. A diploma privilege, instituted as a one-time emergency measure, creates no incentives for law schools to dilute their admissions standards or grading standards.
The front lines of our fight against the novel coronavirus are our brave health care workers—doctors, nurses, EMTs, cleaning staff, and others keeping our health care system running and saving lives. But many other occupations play critical secondary roles in this crisis, and that includes the legal profession.
Countless individuals across the country suddenly face new legal challenges involving housing and eviction, eligibility for public benefits, health care and insurance regulation, employment protections for workers facing health risks on the job, health risks inside jails and prisons, and possible bankruptcy, to name just a few.
Many of our graduating law students have already begun engaging these pressing legal issues through their work in many of our law school legal clinics. These graduating law students are eager to join the legal workforce and immediately begin serving clients facing these and many other new and unexpected legal challenges. What currently stands in their way is the bar exam, and the uncertainty of whether and when it can be administered. Now is the time to remove that barrier.
State supreme courts and bar licensing bodies should institute the diploma privilege for this year, automatically admitting to the bar all law students graduating from an accredited law school in 2020.
For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.