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Law School Grads Can’t Skip Florida Bar Exam, Court Says

Sept. 3, 2020, 6:15 PM

The Florida Supreme Court shot down a proposal that would allow recent law school graduates to substitute training for taking the bar exam.

The court said on Thursday it was “essential” that lawyers meet certain requirements before being allowed to practice because of the potential harm to the public if they’re not prepared.

“That harm, when it occurs, undermines confidence in our entire system of justice and, consequently, undermines the foundation for our system of justice itself,” the court said.

The pandemic disrupted plans in most states for administering the July bar exam, with some postponing it and others canceling. The unusual circumstance forced graduates to scramble, injecting uncertainty into their career plans. The court acknowledged the “burdens” bar applicants have faced due to the delay.

Florida was one state that canceled the in-person test in July, instead offering an online exam in August. That’s since been changed to October.

More than 50 Florida Bar members petitioned the court in August, asking that it admit bar applicants who had registered to take the July exam and who would “otherwise qualify for admission.” They would be supervised for six months by a Florida attorney before assuming full privileges.

But the court found that the supervised training isn’t an adequate substitute for the exam, which allows the court to evaluate the “knowledge and skill” of applicants.

In rejecting the petition, the court noted that recent graduates can practice on a temporary basis while being supervised. It also confirmed next month’s plans to administer the bar exam online.

The case is In re Petition to Amend the Rule of the Supreme Court Relating to Admissions to the Bar and the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, Fla. Bar, No. SC20-1236, 9/3/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com