National Movement Working Toward Licensure Through Diploma Privilege

National Movement Working Toward Licensure Through Diploma Privilege

National Movement Working Toward Licensure Through Diploma Privilege

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the nation and impacts public gatherings for both social and institutional purposes, one of the institutions affected is the summer bar exam in practically all fifty states. Currently, most courts are closed which has already created an eventual backlog of the American judicial system, both its civil and criminal components. As a response, a coalition of students, scholars, attorneys, and law professors has started a national movement advocating for licensure through diploma privilege rather than examination, since completion of the latter are presently tentative and uncertain at best.

United for Diploma Privilege, a national movement of students, recent graduates, law professors and lawyers mobilizing for diploma privilege offered JURIST the following statement regarding the Board of Trustee’s decision:

“While today’s recommendations by the Board of Trustees offer little clarity or reassurance, we hope they prove to be the first step towards a transparent, collaborative, and inclusive process for finding a solution that protects both public health and the continued availability of essential legal services.

Our coalition views the first option—which involves the mere postponement of the July exam to September—as inconsistent with all public health directives. No competent public health official will endorse administering an exam to thousands of test-takers mere months from now. Further, an online exam is not possible, as the [National Conference of Bar Examiners] has itself acknowledged.

Importantly, the second option cancels the July exam outright. While we see the cancellation of the bar exam as the only responsible choice given the prevailing uncertainty regarding how long the pandemic will last, we emphasize the need for broad licensure through diploma privilege. Anything less would needlessly disrupt both graduates’ careers and the provision of essential legal services to Californians in need. Further, any task force must include prospective test-takers, legal aid providers, and representatives from the nearly 1,400 signatories to our petition demanding diploma privilege and must not needlessly postpone the broad licensure of prospective test-takers to practice law in California while alternative paths towards full licensure are explored. Our coalition is happy to be a partner in this process.”

United for Diploma Privilege believes that licensure in this manner is the only humane and practical option because it protects the health of students while also ensuring fair and equitable admission to the bar. With diploma privilege, students can enter the profession to zealously meet the needs of clients, especially those individuals who need it the most.

Despite all the serious and nonserious complaints about the fact that there are too many lawyers, the yearly influx into the legal workforce of law graduates who successfully pass the bar exam and successfully transition to becoming lawyers is necessary to replenish and maintain the legal workforce so that there are enough attorneys to service the number of clients who require them.

The pandemic has the potential to interfere with this influx by forcing the postponement of the bar exam, thus preventing the licensing and admittance of new attorneys into each jurisdiction’s legal system. If this happens, there is the increased prospect that many members of the general public may have their legal rights seriously compromised for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

The California Desert Trial Academy is a 21st Century law school tailored to meet the needs of working people. Any lawyer must study and know the law. We believe that practical experience in tandem with legal knowledge is the best road to a successful, rewarding, and prosperous legal career. At CDTA, we train, educate, and develop students to be exceptional attorneys and trial advocates. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.

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