Innovation in Law Practice, 0222 UTBJ, Vol. 35, No. 1. 43

Authorby Catherine Bramble, J.
PositionVol. 35 1 Pg. 43

Innovation in Law Practice

No. Vol. 35 No. 1 Pg. 43

Utah Bar Journal

February, 2022

January, 2021

by Catherine Bramble, J.

Innovation In a Time of Crisis: The Utah Supreme Court’s Order on Emergency Diploma Privilege

As the United States began to feel the effects of the global pandemic in March of 2020, third-year law students across the country watched news reports with growing concern about how the pandemic would affect their ability to take a two-day in-person exam in July that is required in almost every jurisdiction, including Utah, to become a licensed attorney. Should they plan on beginning their study for the Bar in May as advised by their law school? Would an exam even be offered, and if so, how would everyone’s safety be ensured? If it wasn’t offered and they couldn’t be licensed, what would happen to the job offer they had already accepted or to their job search if they didn’t yet have an offer? These questions and many others came to me from BYU Law students in my role as Director of Academic Advisement & Development at BYU Law School, but I had no good answers. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Louisa Heiny at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law was hearing similar questions from students, and we began collaborating on possible responses.

On Sunday, March 22, eleven legal scholars published a white paper titled “The Bar Exam and the COVID Pandemic: The Need for Immediate Action.” The paper provided six possible alternatives to the Bar Exam, including postponement, online exams, exams administered in small groups, emergency diploma privilege, emergency diploma privilege-plus (the “plus” referring to additional requirements such as supervised practice hours), and expanded supervised practice. The paper argued that the first three options would fail to meet the needs of both new law school graduates and those suffering from the access to justice gap that it posited would only grow during the pandemic, while arguing that the latter three were viable options.

Associate Dean Heiny and I immediately forwarded the paper to our respective Deans, and within forty-eight hours Dean Gordon Smith of BYU and Dean Elizabeth Kronk Warner of the University of Utah were in communication with the Utah Supreme Court about the impending Bar crisis. At the request of the court, we prepared a joint memorandum advocating for the adoption of an emergency diploma privilege. On April 2, the court held a joint...

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