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ABA recommends path to practice for law school grads with canceled bar exams

The American Bar Association is urging state licensing authorities to let 2019-20 law school graduates who can’t take the bar exam because of the coronavirus pandemic practice law under certain circumstances.

The ABA Board of Governors approved a policy late Tuesday that would allow 2019-20 graduates of ABA-approved law schools to practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney if the July bar exam in their jurisdiction is canceled or postponed due to health concerns related to COVID-19.

The recommendation only applies to first-time exam takers, and these graduates would be able to practice through 2021 without passing. Applicants would have to take the bar exam by the end of 2021.

The policy also lets graduates from previous years who have been serving as judicial law clerks since graduation practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney.

ABA President Judy Perry Martinez said the postponed bar exams, although justified, are adversely affecting recent graduates’ lives and careers. She said the policy will help students while also addressing the increase in legal needs caused by the pandemic.

The highest court or bar admission authority of each jurisdiction will have to adopt the emergency rules. Several jurisdictions already postponed their bar exams scheduled for July, and some have also adopted their own rules to help recent graduates.

About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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