Paul L. Caron

Monday, August 10, 2020

Law School Deans, Recent Graduates Urge Maryland To Be Fifth State To Adopt Diploma Privilege During COVID-19

Baltimore Sun, Maryland Law School Deans, Recent Graduates Urge State to Temporarily Waive Bar Exam:

Maryland BarMaryland law school deans and recent graduates are calling on the state’s highest court to waive the bar exam for new lawyers, citing concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applicants to the Maryland Bar, who are scheduled to sit for the Oct. 5-6 bar exam, took the unusual step of filing a petition July 31 with the Maryland Court of Appeals requesting the waiver.

Deans Donald Tobin of the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law and Ronald Weich of the University of Baltimore School of Law also delivered a letter Wednesday in support of the petition to Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. ...

Prior to the pandemic, Wisconsin was the only state that allowed graduates from its two accredited law schools to secure a law license without taking the bar exam — a practice known as “diploma privilege,” Weich said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic jeopardizes states’ ability to safely proctor the two-day exam, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Louisiana have temporarily adopted “diploma privilege.”

Weich and Tobin said they supported the idea of “diploma privilege” before the pandemic arrived. “For a long time, legal scholars and administrators have questioned whether the bar exam is the best entry point [for attorneys],” Tobin said. “Those things just get highlighted during a crisis like this.”

Should Maryland courts decide to waive bar exam requirements, law license applicants who have graduated from accredited law schools would still need to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, designed to measure a candidate’s understanding of the professional conduct of lawyers. Applicants would also need to take an online exam testing knowledge of distinctions in Maryland law, and submit to a character and fitness screening.

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