Florida Bar, Institute Emergency Diploma Privileges for July 2020 Applicants

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Brian Heckmann
Brian Heckmann signed this petition

The rapid expansion of the COVID-19 virus, its unique ability to survive extended periods of time on the surface of certain materials, and its unusually strong contagious nature poses a threat to the health safety and welfare of the citizens of the State of Florida. While Florida has, as of yet, not issued a shelter in place order, most institutions, including all of the accredited law schools in the state, have shut down and transitioned to remote learning--much to the detriment of their students.

Just like every year, thousands of 3Ls across Florida and the nation are preparing to take the summer 2020 bar exam. Many of whom already have job offers contingent upon successful admittance to the bar for the practice of law. However, at this time it is unfeasible and unsafe to conduct the bar exam as usual. Over the last five years, there have been on average nearly 2,000 people who have sat for the July bar test, all of whom were in the same facility within relative proximity to each other. Given the current directive to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, it hardly needs to be said that the standard system of admittance to the bar is not able to comply with the realities of a contagious global pandemic.

This means that in all likelihood the Florida Board of Bar Examiners will need to find an alternative means of allowing May 2020 graduates to enter the practice of law. Thankfully, a working paper by numerous legal scholars has already done the heavy lifting for the Board of Bar Examiners by exploring the pros and cons of the several options. The working paper can be found here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3559060

In short, alternative methodologies of administering the test such as online or in smaller groups have serious logistical difficulties. Postponement of the exam would be disastrous for Florida's legal industry's economic recovery post COVID-19 as well as disastrous for the May 2020 graduates. The best and most workable option is clearly a one time, sui generis exception to the bar exam requirement by extending emergency Diploma Privileges to all law students who graduate from an ABA accredited law school and who have registered for the July 2020 exam. Such privileges could easily come with stipulations that ensure the competence of those admitted to the practice of law so as to protect the public from unqualified lawyers.

In summary, these are extraordinary times which present extraordinary challenges. We, the law school class of 2020 ask that the Florida Board of Bar Examiners rise to these challenges with an extraordinary solution to prevent any further undue hardship to our professional careers.