NY Law Professors & Deans Support Diploma Privilege

NY Law Professors & Deans Support Diploma Privilege

NY Law Professors & Deans Support Diploma Privilege

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major dilemma for the Supreme Courts and State Bars of almost every American jurisdiction, as well, more importantly, tens of thousands of recent law school graduates. The quarantine has caused the cancellation of the traditional summer July bar exam.

Although most jurisdictions have rescheduled their bar exams and made provisions to administer them online, many legal scholars, professors, lawyers, and judges have spoken out for licensing these recent graduates based on diploma privilege. Professors in New York have called for states to extend licensure based on diploma privilege. The 15 deans of law schools located in New York jointly signed a letter, as well.

In New York, 300+ law professors signed an open letter supporting a one-time emergency “diploma privilege” to practice in New York. The letter is addressed to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, N.Y. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and N.Y. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The letter reads in part:

Given the turmoil our nation has endured over the past three months, the continued disruptions in the daily lives of our graduates, and the continued threat of COVID-19 throughout the United States, it is difficult to imagine how any bar examination in the coming months could be considered either prudent or fair. Allowing our graduates to engage in limited supervised practice is an insufficient substitute because many will be unable to secure work until licensed. Even those who can secure work would be tasked with studying for a postponed examination while actively representing clients. Furthermore, there is no guarantee the health crisis will have resolved by the next bar exam.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic as of the late summer of 2020, there is simply no viable way to pack thousands of prospective attorneys into convention centers, hotel meeting rooms, and other venues anywhere for two days of test-taking in close quarters, with or without face masks and other accommodations for social distancing.

Delaying the bar exam for any law school graduate means additional months in which trained lawyers cannot practice their profession, earn a living, and begin paying back the student loans they may have incurred throughout undergraduate and graduate school. The idea of administering an exam online is an unperfected practice on this scale and presents a variety of technical problems, which may result in some individuals questioning the validity of the test results. Testing in October means that test results will not be released until mid-January, which is too late for unsuccessful applicants to study adequately for the February bar exam. Extending licensure to recent law school grads based on diploma privilege would solve all these problems.

Granting provisional licenses to members of the class of 2020, without taking the bar exam, and allowing them to practice law and earn a living under the supervision of traditionally licensed lawyers is a safe option. These provisional licenses would be valid until “licensees” could take an online bar exam or the traditional in-person exam whenever mass test-taking may next be a viable option.

Any student engaged in online, distance learning at a progressive law school like California Desert Trial Academy College of Law, has the freedom to study whenever and wherever, at their utmost convenience. In these current troubled times, CDTA students are at an advantage based on the online resources available to them on campus and at the CDTA website. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.