ALBANY, N.Y. — The Deans of all fifteen law schools operating in New York State have searched for an answer to their students’ most burning questions: will I have a chance to practice law now that I have graduated from Law School? Right now, the New York legislature is pondering that same question after the state’s highest court canceled the summer sitting of the New York Bar Exam. According to an article appearing on the Spectrum News website, approximately 10,000 law school graduates are waiting in limbo as the Court of Appeals, and legislators try to find a way to ensure that only qualified bar exam applicants are allowed to practice law in New York State.
The Court of Appeals sets the standards for admission to the New York Bar. The Court of Appeals is considering an online-only exam in October. To that end, the Court of Appeals organized a working group to figure out the most equitable and most secure methods of administering an online bar exam. An online bar exam lends itself to two obvious problems: cheating and technical issues. A weak internet signal, access to reliable computers, and other technological problems could easily interfere with a person taking the bar exam. Additionally, people could have a book open or have another person take the exam and defraud the New York State Bar Examiners. The online bar exam would be used for this group of bar applicants unless COVID-19 prevents sitting as a group to take the written test, which is often offered in the latter part of the winter.
At least one New York legislator recommends conferring a “diploma privilege” upon law school graduates to resolve the problem. The bill has some support. Admitting bar applicants to the practice of law without sitting for the bar exam grants this year’s graduates relief from an economic and social burden caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Law school graduates are overwhelmingly in favor of a diploma privilege, unsurprisingly.
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