Emergency measures that allowed law school graduates to be eligible for law licenses without taking the bar examination enabled nearly 1400 people to be licensed, Bloomberg News reported in January. This option had been made available in Louisiana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the District of Columbia, in response to a resolution passed by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) House of Delegates at their August Annual Meeting. The resolution opened the door for the highest court in each jurisdiction to cancel the bar or not administer it in person during the COVID-19 crisis unless cleared by public health authorities.

In Louisiana, for example, emergency admission was granted to candidates that had graduated from an ABA-accredited law school no earlier than December 2019 nor had sat for the bar exam previously. By December 2020, the five jurisdictions had announced plans for a remote bar exam in February 2021. Louisiana will be offering an open-book bar exam and the other four jurisdictions will use a remote test to be offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The NCBE remote examination was made available to all jurisdictions for delivery on the same dates as the in-person administration, February 23-24, 2021. It was left to the jurisdictions to individually determine how they want to administer the exam.

Wisconsin is the only state that does not require the bar examination for in-state law school graduates, according to the ABA.

The Dean of Brigham Young University’s Law School, Gordon Smith, told an ABA Journal reporter that five jurisdictions that had offered the emergency diploma privilege will provide an opportunity for the courts to see whether licensure without a bar exam has produced less competent lawyers. “My sense is there’s absolutely no difference at all, but it’s worthy of trying to get to the bottom of it,” he observed..

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