Los Angeles Times editorial, Coronavirus Has Made It Unsafe to Take the California bar. So Put New Lawyers to Work Without It:
The state Supreme Court, the State Bar of California and about 9,000 recent law school graduates find themselves in a jam. It is almost the traditional time for the July bar exam, the annual hazing ritual that determines whether students have wasted three years of their lives or, instead, will be licensed and begin their legal careers.
But we’re in the midst of a pandemic. There’s no way those thousands of prospective attorneys are going to be jammed into convention centers and hotel ballrooms around the state for two days of test-taking in close quarters, with face masks or without. The exam has been scrapped, so what now? Every option would heap additional headaches on the legal and testing industries and additional hardships on law graduates.
Delayed exams mean additional months in which trained lawyers can’t practice their profession, can’t earn their living and can’t begin paying back the student loans that many have amassed. Online exams pose a host of technical problems and, depending on how and when they are administered, call into question the validity of the results. October exams mean scoring won’t be completed until mid-January — too late for unsuccessful applicants to study effectively for the February do-over.
The best of the bad options is to grant provisional licenses to members of the class of 2020 right away, without tests, and allow them to practice their new profession and earn their living under the supervision of lawyers who were licensed in the old-fashioned way. Their licenses would be valid until they could take an online bar exam in October or the traditional in-person exam next year, or whenever it can next be safely administered. ...
As the State Bar of California (the licensing agency) and the state Supreme Court (which has the ultimate rule-making authority) are pondering the 2020 bar exam, it’s worth remembering that there has been no study that demonstrates that the exam does anything to protect consumers from poor-quality lawyers. Without such a study, the exam is open to the criticism that it is indeed little more than a hazing ritual — one that limits competition to practicing lawyers and supports an entire industry built on costly prep courses. Perhaps a diploma from an accredited California law school should be enough, at least in the short term.