Bar Exam versus Diploma Privilege: The Pandemic Experience, 0121 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 1 Pg. 16

Author:BY BRADLEY G. TAYLOR
Position:Vol. 50, 1 [Page 16]

50 Colo.Law. 16

Bar Exam versus Diploma Privilege: The Pandemic Experience

Vol. 50, No. 1 [Page 16]

Colorado Lawyer

January, 2021

AS I SEE IT

BY BRADLEY G. TAYLOR

During the COVID-19 pandemic, one group has faced unique challenges: bar exam takers. After graduating from the University of Utah law school in May 2020, I sat for, and passed, the July 2020 Colorado bar exam. Conversely, most of my law school classmates were granted emergency diploma privilege by the Utah Supreme Court. While they became full-fledged lawyers without taking the bar exam, I studied without knowing whether there would be an exam to take. This begs the question: does the time, energy, and angst that new grads put into studying for the bar exam strengthen the legal profession, or is it simply a rite of passage? I don’t know the answer, but I’m sharing my experience to add to the conversation. Perhaps those who sit for the online exam in February1 will consider sharing their stories as well.

While my classmates breathed a sigh of relief, I was wracked with uncertainty. I felt isolated. My peers celebrated while I studied and stressed.

The July 2020 Bar Exam

During the COVID-19 pandemic, one group has faced unique challenges: bar exam takers. After graduating from the University of Utah law school in May 2020, I sat for, and passed, the July 2020 Colorado bar exam. Conversely, most of my law school classmates were granted emergency diploma privilege by the Utah Supreme Court. While they became full-fledged lawyers without taking the bar exam, I studied without knowing whether there would be an exam to take. This begs the question: does the time, energy, and angst that new grads put into studying for the bar exam strengthen the legal profession, or is it simply a rite of passage? I don’t know the answer, but I’m sharing my experience to add to the conversation. Perhaps those who sit for the online exam in February1 will consider sharing their stories as well.

The July 2020 Bar Exam

Most practitioners would agree that studying for and taking the bar exam is a grueling experience. As a first-time bar test taker, it’s difficult to determine how my experiences may have deviated from a traditional year. Yet I do know the pandemic presented problems never before faced by law students, bar test takers, and administrators alike.2

As a 2L, I distinctly remember listening to bar application horror stories. I dreaded the process before it even began. Turns out, my fears were well founded. Digging up roughly 10 years of my life to provide a reference for each job and living situation was arduous. Trying to find my manager from a busboy job I had when I was 16 was the worst. After three calls to HR, numerous Facebook searches, and even a county assessor search, all I had was a name but no other contact information. Fortunately, the Office of Attorney Admissions was understanding. Little did I know this was just a precursor for what was to come. I did get one lucky break: because I was applying to be barred in two states, I had gathered most of my application information before COVID-19 shut everything down.

My real concerns over the bar exam being impacted by the pandemic began in March/April when New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut postponed/canceled their July exams.3 The closer I got to graduation, the more worried I became that the Colorado exam would be impacted.

Colorado saw a spike in COVID-19 cases...

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