National Conference of Bar Examiners, Bar Admissions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evaluating Options for the Class of 2020:
The class of 2020 faces unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as does the American public. These challenges are especially being felt by low income and vulnerable populations. Decisions about how to meet the anticipated increased need for legal services, while ensuring public protection through the licensure process, are vested with each court. Tied up in such decisions, however, is the issue of how to minimize the financial impact on law school graduates resulting from potential delays in licensure. NCBE offers this paper to provide courts and admissions boards with information to assist them as they weigh options for allowing the class of 2020 to become licensed in the event the traditional bar exam cannot safely be administered.
Karen Sloan (Law.com), Ditching the Bar Exam Puts Public at Risk, Says Test Maker:
Allowing this year’s law graduates to skip the bar exam amid the coronavirus pandemic risks unleashing unqualified new lawyers on the public and hobbling law school accreditation efforts, according to the group that designs the test.
Jurisdictions across the country are grappling with the July bar exam and whether it will be possible to administer the test safely. Licensing exams for doctors and nurses are not being waived due to COVID-19, the national conference’s paper notes, although those exams are being delayed or delivered in alternative ways. “There are good reasons the jurisdictions have relied upon the bar exam for decades as a fair, objective, valid, and efficient method for making licensing decisions, rather than relying upon diploma privilege,” reads the white paper. ...
It’s not surprising that the NCBE is against eliminating the test for admission. Developing the exam is the core function of the organization, which has nearly 100 employees and reported $26.6 million in revenue in 2018, according to tax filings. Still, its white paper lays out the protections to the public that would be compromised without requiring the test for would-be lawyers. ...
The Utah Supreme Court last week issued a proposed order under which certain 2020 law graduates could skip the bar exam. ... [T]he National Conference of Bar Examiners’ paper lays out numerous arguments against diploma privilege, most notably that requiring lawyers to pass the exam serves an important consumer protection function and ensures new lawyers have a minimum level of competence. ...
Instead of adopting diploma privileges, jurisdictions should look to temporary supervised practice provisions that allow law graduates to practice until they can take the test, the paper argues. The ABA’s Board of Governors has also endorsed the expansion of supervised practice provisions as an interim step.
TaxProf Blog coverage of the July 2020 bar exam:
- The Bar Exam And The COVID-19 Pandemic: The Need For Immediate Action (Mar. 14, 2020)
- NCBE To Decide By May 5 Whether It Will Provide MBE For July Bar Examinations (Mar. 27, 2020)
- New York Postpones July Bar Exam To Fall; Students Demand Emergency Diploma Privilege To Practice Law (Mar. 28, 2020)
- Massachusetts Joins New York In Postponing July Bar Exam (Mar. 30, 2020)
- Connecticut Is Third State To Postpone July Bar Exam (Mar. 31, 2020)
- Hawaii Is Fourth State To Postpone July Bar Exam (Apr. 2, 2020)
- New Jersey Is Fifth State To Postpone July Bar Exam, First To Offer 2020 Law Grads Temporary License To Practice (Apr. 7, 2020)
- July Bar Exam Update: ABA, Arizona, California, Florida, Tennessee, Vermont (Apr. 8, 2020)
- Indiana Allows 2020 Law Grads To Serve As Graduate Legal Interns And Take February 2021 Bar Exam (Apr. 9, 2020)
- Utah To Let Grads Skip Bar Exam Due To COVID-19, But Only From Schools With 86%+ Bar Pass Rate; Grads Of Just 4 Of California's 21 Law Schools Would Qualify (Apr. 11, 2020)
- Licensing Lawyers In A Pandemic: Proving Competence (Apr. 12, 2020)
- Even In Time Of Crisis, Hold Fast To Bar Exam (Apr. 13, 2020)
- Bar Exam Federalism During The COVID-19 Pandemic (Apr. 14, 2020)
- State Bar Tells California Supreme Court: Delay Or Cancel July Bar Exam (Apr. 15, 2020)
- July Bar Exam Update: Maine, Rhode Island (Apr. 16, 2020)
- Letter From California State Bar To California Supreme Court On July Bar Exam (Apr. 17, 2020)
- July Bar Exam Update: Georgia, Tennessee, Virgin Islands (Apr. 18, 2020)
- Letter From California Deans To California Supreme Court On July Bar Exam (Apr. 18, 2020)
For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.