Harvard Law Students Want to Skip Bar Exam

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Students at Harvard Law School are arguing this week that they should be granted a law license without having to pass the bar exam. Students at other law schools around the country have also urged their state bar association to adopt an “emergency diploma privilege” in response to the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus pandemic that would grant them a law license on the basis of their diploma.

According to a report by the Crimson, students at Harvard Law School are asking state bar associations around the country to let them skip the bar exam because of the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus crisis.

A group of students penned a letter to the administration of the law school, urging them to publicly support proposals that would allow students to skip the bar exam. The students argue that it is unfair to ask law school graduates to prepare for the bar exam amidst the ongoing pandemic.

“Most HLS graduates planned to begin working with employers starting late Summer or Fall 2020,” the letter reads. “If state bar exams continue to be postponed, it is unclear if students will begin working, as planned.”

“For those students with limited means, it is unclear how they will financially support themselves, and their families, if their employment starts at a later date,” the letter continues. “For all, it is unclear if students will be expected to begin making payments on their student loans this year.”

Several states around the country have already delayed the bar exam from its traditional administration dates in July. However, the students argue that subsequent outbreaks of the Wuhan coronavirus could delay the bar exam further, jeopardizing employment offers.

“Given that vaccinations and preventative medical therapies will not open to the market for at least a year, the potential for another outbreak is simply a matter of time,” the letter adds. “A shortsighted decision to merely postpone the July exam, if met with the high probability of subsequent outbreak and a resulting further postponement, will deprive Americans of crucial legal assistance in the months ahead.”

Some have compared the “emergency diploma privilege” proposal to the standard procedures in the state of Wisconsin where students do not need to take the state bar exam to receive their law license if they graduated from an accredited law school in the state.

As of April 6, no state has adopted such a proposal. In March, the New York State Bar Association and the New York Court of Appeals rejected proposals to adopt an “emergency diploma privilege” for students preparing to graduate from New York law schools.

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