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Recent Law Grads Call on California Trustees to Scrap Bar Exam

July 7, 2020, 9:38 PM

Those signed up to take the California bar exam are growing increasingly concerned about state officials’ indecisiveness regarding when and if the bar exam should be administered in 2020, given the public health concerns over Covid-19.

California officials are weighing a variety of possible scenarios, including a possible online exam to be given in September instead of the originally scheduled dates later this month. They’re also considering other options that could allow recent law school graduates the ability to practice law without taking an exam, either provisionally or permanently.

Dozens of recent law school grads addressed the California Bar’s Board of Trustees during a three-hour Zoom meeting July 7, during which many expressed strong feelings about what they considered to be an overly costly bar exam preparation process that discriminates against poorer students and, disproportionately, puts test takers of color at a disadvantage.

Some callers grew emotional as they talked about the stresses of having to pay for exam prep courses while waiting for their delayed careers to begin. Oday Yousif criticized what he called the “glorified hazing ritual” otherwise known as the bar exam, a test other callers said has very little to do with the actual practice of law.

“The bar is not a fair determination of competence,” said Deborah Jones, another caller into the Trustees’ meeting. “It really isn’t.”

“If you are listening to the @StateBarCA Zoom call today, it is nothing but HEART, puro corazón. You are hearing our tears, our pain, our love, our trauma. PLEASE DO NOT FORGET THESE TESTIMONIALS,” tweeted Pilar Escontrias from the group United for Diploma Privilege as the meeting was wrapping up.

In late April, the Supreme Court of California ordered that the bar exam slated for July 28-29 be postponed to Sept. 9-10. Though the court asked the State Bar to make “every effort” to administer the test online with remote or electronic proctoring, no final decision has yet been reached.

Around that time, a group of deans from 17 California law schools, wrote in favor of provisional licenses, which would allow new graduates to practice while overseen by a licensed attorney until they eventually take and pass the bar, and meet other bar admission requirements.

More recently, that same group of deans, noting the increased urgency surrounding the exam, changed their position in favor of a full emergency diploma privilege, which would allow law school grads who meet certain conditions to practice without ever having to take the bar.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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