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Florida Attorneys Ask Court to Grant Licenses Without Taking Bar

Aug. 20, 2020, 9:46 PM

More than 100 Florida lawyers petitioned the state’s supreme court to allow recent law school graduates to become licensed lawyers without taking the bar exam.

The haphazard method in which the Florida Board of Bar Examiners has attempted to administer exam this summer has resulted in more than simply delays for the thousands of applicants who had signed up for the exam, petitioners wrote.

“The disruption of the settled expectations has created extreme financial hardships, loss of employment opportunities, loss of health care, and repeated psychological stress,” they wrote.

The petitioners asked for oral argument.

Amid a spike in new coronavirus cases in Florida, the board in July moved the test online for Aug. 18 but then delayed it another day before determining that it wasn’t technically feasible. Similar issues have arisen in Indiana and Nevada.

The Florida exam was moved to October, but no date was set.

The petitioners argue that a better option would be to give graduates a pathway to licensure by engaging in supervised practice for six months from their date of admission.

The plan would end the need for the grads to take the bar exam through what effectively appears to be a form of “diploma privilege.”

Many in Florida and around the country have been urging authorities to adopt similar solutions as a handful of states, including Oregon, Washington State, Louisiana, and Utah, already have.

Several law school grads told their stories in the petition.

Jessica Ramos, a graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law, wrote that in anticipation of the July test, she and her fiancé purchased a home in December 2019, “putting all our savings into the down payment.”

Ramos, whose husband’s been furloughed, said she expected to start working by October. Now, the couple is unsure how they’ll pay their mortgage, not to mention food.

“The longer this test is postponed, the more financial hardship we face,” she wrote.

The request of petitioners comes a day after Florida’s top judge admitted just how flawed the administration of the bar exam has been.

“We acknowledge and accept the criticism that has been directed at the court and the Board of Bar Examiners,” said Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady. “Our inability to offer the bar examination in August was a failure. We apologize for that failure.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at sskolnik@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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