Cheryl Miller reports in The Recorder about a letter to the Supreme Court from 17 California law school deans about the upcoming bar exam. The deans wrote to “express [their] concern” with the State Bar trustees’ recommendation to postpone the bar exam, now scheduled for July 28 and 29, to September 9 and 10. (See here.)
The deans want the Supreme Court to not proceed with a live September exam and explore the possibility of an on-line exam. But they have doubts as to the efficacy of even an on-line exam, and they thus urge the court to “create a form of provisional licensing for those who were going to take the July 2020 bar exam.” The deans propose a “provisional licensing for a period of time long enough to permit our graduates some degree of flexibility and the ability to launch their careers, available for those who practice under the supervision of a licensed lawyer and who meet the other requirements for admission to the California bar.”
A separate, later letter from UC Irvine School of Law Dean L. Song Richardson — who signed the deans’ letter — and 106 alumni from the classes of 2012 through 2019 questions the current licensing system in general. Richardson urges the court to “quickly and definitively decide not to hold a bar exam in 2020” because the exam’s cancellation for public health reasons is “inevitable,” but she also recommends using “this moment to experiment with innovative and creative alternatives to the bar exam as a measure of attorney competence while protecting vulnerable Californians who will face an acute need for legal services during and in the aftermath of COVID-19.” She says that “many lawyers and scholars, including me, are not convinced that the bar examination is an accurate measure of an attorney’s qualification to practice law.”
The UC Irvine letter also discusses “a number of important questions and concerns that can and must be answered” if, as the deans propose, provisional licensing will depend in part on supervision of graduates by licensed attorneys.
Miller’s article reports, “Court spokesperson Cathal Conneely said [court] members will review the recommendations at their regularly scheduled conference on Wednesday and could take action before the end of the month.”