ABA House Calls for State Bar Exams to be Cancelled

The American Bar Association has voted in favour of a resolution urging jurisdictions to find safer alternatives for licensing attorneys.

In a 256-146 vote, the ABA’s House of Delegates on Tuesday adopted Resolution 10G, which calls for jurisdiction authorities to cancel bar examinations and seek a safer means of assessing attorneys-in-training.

[T]he American Bar Association urges the highest court or bar admission authority of each jurisdiction to cancel and to not administer any in-person bar examination during the COVID-19 pandemic until and unless public health authorities determine that the examination can be administered in a manner that ensures the health and safety of bar applicants, proctors, other staff, and local communities,” the resolution reads.

The resolution also suggests several alternatives to holding in-person bar exams, including “administration of a remote bar examination, creation or expansion of certified legal intern programs, supervised practice programs leading directly to licensure, a form of diploma privilege, or provisional admission subject to passing an in-person bar examination when public health and safety concerns permit such an examination.”

The passing of Resolution 10G came as a surprise to observers, following more than an hour of sometimes intense debate. Proponents of the Resolution branded it aa common-sense measure, with Patricia Salkin, delegate from the ABA’s Section of State and Local Government, describing it as “akin to wearing face masks.”

The National Conference of Bar Examiners stood in opposition to the resolution, with representative Hulett “Bucky” Askew voicing concerns that its language was overly vague and potentially enabling graduates of non-ABA-accredited law schools becoming licensed to practise law without facing examination.

Does the House really want to support the diploma privilege for graduates of unaccredited law schools?” Askew asked during his remarks in opposition.

Resolution 10G was initially put forward by the Virgin Islands Bar Association, with the ABA Young Lawyers Division, the ABA Law Student Division, and several other ABA Sections later joining as co-sponsors.

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