Monday, August 31, 2020
Young Lawyers Advisory Board, The Bar Exam Debacle: A Crisis Revealed By COVID:
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in many areas of life and continues to expose our weaknesses and prompt insightful debate whether it be when and how to re-open businesses, virtual or in-person schooling, or determining if a worker is essential or non-essential. The legal profession is no exception to COVID-19’s effect, and the debate surrounding a virtual bar exam versus recognizing the diploma privilege for the class of 2020 was heated and impactful among graduates and practitioners alike.
The Supreme Court ordered that the bar exam proceed virtually in October, and graduates can practice temporarily under supervision of a licensed attorney in accordance with Rule 1:21-3. The debate leading up to this decision weighed whether diploma privilege could be a viable alternative, and brought to the forefront the hardships on new graduates, which include delaying employment by several months, struggling to find a place to take the exam with reliable internet access, taking a virtual exam that has never been administered before, and increasing financial hardship. It is evident that under the current conditions, there is no “perfect” solution. ...
The issue of COVID-19 and the 2020 bar exam should not be the end of the discussion on whether a diploma equals the ability to practice law. Rather, it is imperative that this be the beginning of a broader discussion of enhancing legal education, increasing accountability, and providing an educational environment for aspiring lawyers that is worth their time and investment.