A group of recent law school graduates urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to let them practice law without taking the bar exam over concerns that in-person tests slated for September could expose the graduates to the novel coronavirus.
The unsigned letter, sent to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on Saturday, urged to high court to implement emergency diploma privilege, which would allow graduates from accredited law schools to enter the New Jersey Bar without taking the exam.
“The risk associated with an in-person examination among hundreds of people is intolerable, and not just for exam-takers, but for New Jersey and the entire country,” the letter said. “The toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on our society cannot be understated, and the danger it still presents is only accentuated by the record number of cases spiking daily nationwide.”
Three other states — Washington, Oregon and Utah — have already adopted diploma privilege.
The graduates also oppose online testing over concerns that it would disproportionately impact low-income test takers who may not have a stable internet connection, if they have on at all. They further claimed that bar exam preparation services were not designed to account for an online test.
The group also warned that delaying the exam at a time when the economy is contracting could prevent some graduates from securing employment
“We understand that this is a difficult balancing of the sanctity of the legal system, its traditions, and concerns over the qualifications of aspiring attorneys who seek to represent the public,” the letter said. “This is not, however, a traditional time, and results from a bar exam in this climate will not accurately represent the true number of qualified candidates. The New Jersey legal community is strong, and its strength does not come from a test. It comes from the community and unity, which this petition makes apparent.”Letter in Support of Diploma Privilege