Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
Recent Tennessee law school graduates seek diploma privilege in lieu of bar exam
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Recent Tennessee law school graduates seek diploma privilege in lieu of bar exam

Recent law school graduates of Tennessee law schools filed an emergency rule waiver with the Supreme Court of Tennessee on Tuesday seeking diploma privilege for eligible applicants currently registered to sit for the Tennessee Bar in July 2020, September 2020 and February 2021.

This waiver comes as many state bar associations have adapted how the bar will be administered or granted recent law school graduates diploma privilege to mitigate COVID-19 transmission. More specifically, recent Tennessee law school graduates argue that the Tennessee Board of Bar Examiners should not simply postpone the in-person bar exam to a future date. This alternative course of action would both “complicate employers’ hiring and employment decisions and certainly lead to hiring freezes or rescinded offers” and halt law school graduates’ careers, “resulting in greater financial insecurity, increased unemployment, and reliance on unemployment benefits.” Rather, the Tennessee Board of Bar Examiners should opt to grant recent law school graduates diploma privilege.

The waiver further stated:

COVID-19 has changed the way Tennesseans navigate the world and will affect their lives for an indeterminable amount of time. As the State adapts to a new normal, so must law students. COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on certain populations of law students: immunocompromised students, low-income students, students who have contracted the virus, and students with significant family obligations. Enactment of diploma privilege, or the automatic admission to the Bar, for recent graduates and the class of 2020 would ensure fairness and equity to all law students.

The Tennessee Supreme Court subsequently issued an order canceling the in-person bar exam, which was set to take place July 28-29. However, no alternatives to an in-person exam or a future exam date have been offered.

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