Bloomberg Law
Nov. 17, 2021, 8:32 PM

Could a Law School Diploma Stand in for the Bar Exam? (Podcast)

Adam Allington
Adam Allington
Senior Audio Producer

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, five U.S. jurisdictions opted to suspend their July 2020 bar exams. Instead, these jurisdictions granted licensure to new attorneys through “diploma privilege.” That’s the practice of admitting new attorneys to the state bar, and allowing them to practice law, contingent on their graduation from an ABA-accredited law school only. It does not require taking and passing a bar exam. Wisconsin is currently the only state to permanently offer diploma privilege, and it is only available to graduates of its two in-state law schools, Marquette University Law School and University of Wisconsin Law School.

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Critics of the bar exam have long argued that a timed test, based on short-term memorization of how to apply a vast amount legal rules, is not a true measure of legal competency. And now, with a string of remote testing snafus during the pandemic, many in the legal community are asking whether diploma privilege is a better option. Standing in the way of these fundamental changes are many state supreme courts and bar associations who have authority over who can practice law in their jurisdictions. Additionally, those opposed to diploma privilege argue that, whether it’s accounting, medicine, or law, licensure exams are there for a good reason—to protect the public from incompetent practitioners.

In this second episode of our podcast series on the bar exam, [Un]Common Law will explore the arguments both for and against diploma privilege.

In this episode we speak with:

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Do you have feedback on this episode of [Un]Common Law? Give us a call and leave a voicemail at 703-341-3690.

To contact the producer on this story: Adam Allington in Washington at

To contact the editor and executive producer responsible for this story: Josh Block at