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ABA encourages states to adopt emergency bar authorization due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
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ABA encourages states to adopt emergency bar authorization due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

The American Bar Association (ABA) issued a resolution Tuesday encouraging state licensing officials to grant recent law school graduates emergency authorization to practice law in their states. “The American Bar Association strongly urges the highest court or bar admission authority of each jurisdiction to immediately adopt emergency rules that would authorize 2019 and 2020 law graduates […] who have not yet taken a bar examination, and who apply for admission to the bar, to engage in the limited practice of law, if the July 2020 bar examination in their jurisdiction is cancelled or postponed due to public health and safety concerns arising from the coronavirus pandemic,” says the resolution.

This announcement comes after some states, such as New York, have chosen to cancel or postpone their July bar examinations in the wake of government projections that predict the COVID-19 pandemic could continue for up to 18 months.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) stated that it will remain “proactive” through the developing situation and “ensure that the bar exam can be administered to as many candidates as possible in 2020.”

The rare emergency authorizations proposed by the ABA are limited in scope. According to the resolution, the privilege to limited practice of law without taking a bar exam will only apply to graduates of accredited law schools who have met all requirements to take the July 2020 exam. Furthermore, the ABA advises that the practitioner should be closely advised by an experienced attorney, disclose his or her limited authority, and take the bar exam by the end of 2021. The ABA emphasizes that this resolution grants emergency authority valid only as long as COVID-19 remains a threat to public health.

The US continues to experience an immediate need for experienced lawyers. An ABA press release on the resolution states that the decision was reached because “tens of thousands of graduating law students could ‘serve the public in this crisis’ and improve access to justice for all U.S. residents.”

For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.