Law Schools and Coronavirus: Bar Exemptions and More

April 8, 2020

The American Bar Association's Board of Governors passed a policy resolution this week urging state licensing authorities to allow 2019 and 2020 law graduates who can’t take the July bar exam to practice law in a limited capacity. Some jurisdictions already have canceled the July administration of the test due to COVID-19.

Graduates of ABA-approved law schools may practice “under the supervision of a licensed attorney if the July bar exam in their jurisdiction is canceled or postponed due to public health and safety concerns arising from the coronavirus pandemic,” the ABA announced, summarizing the policy recommendation. The proposal applies only to first-time bar takers and would enable them to practice through 2021 without taking the exam.

“By justifiably postponing bar examinations, states are protecting law students and the public’s health, but the lives and careers of law graduates are being adversely affected,” Judy Perry Martinez, ABA's president, said in a statement. “This guidance for an emergency law graduate rule will not only help the recent law graduates work within the legal sector in a meaningful way, but also will add more people to help address the increase in legal needs for individuals and businesses caused by this pandemic.”

How are law schools handling the transition to remote instruction? The Primary Research Group published a survey of law school faculty and staff members on distance legal education. Forty-three percent of faculty members surveyed preferred to deliver course content using Zoom or other group meetings, while 31 percent preferred course management systems. Fifteen percent of professors delivered lectures through downloadable video links, asynchronously, and 22 percent set up a chat forum for their classes.


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