(Reuters) - New York’s chief judge has approved a program that will temporarily allow qualified law graduates to engage in the limited practice of law before they pass the bar exam, in part a response to concerns raised by students over the state’s delay of the test due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the program, qualified graduates would have to be supervised by an attorney who has been admitted to practice law in New York for at least three years, the New York State Court System said in a statement on Tuesday. The program will be available to all first-time bar exam takers, “irrespective of their graduation year,” the statement said. They’ll have to pass their first bar exam no later than 2021.
”Our goal is to conduct a safe administration of the bar examination as soon as possible and to facilitate candidates’ swift admission to the bar thereafter,” the statement said. “In the interim, the temporary authorization program should provide some assurance and stability for law students and recent law graduates eager to join the workforce.”
New York had in March postponed its July bar exam until September, a move some law students and schools said would cause financial hardship for Spring 2020 graduates, who may lose job offers or face start-date delays if they are not allowed to practice law.
The state’s court system on Tuesday said that seating capacity for its September bar exam will likely be limited due to the pandemic, and that candidates are encouraged to take the Uniform Bar Exam – the test used by many U.S. states, including New York – in another jurisdiction or at a later date. (The National Conference of Bar Examiners, which coordinates the UBE, has said it will announce whether it will offer materials for July bar exams on approximately May 5, and that it will also offer two bar exam administration dates in September.)
New York has so far been the U.S. state hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, and state leaders have ordered residents to stay at home and avoid public gatherings, complicating bar exam administration. The state’s July 2019 bar exam, for example, was administered in locations filled with hundreds of people, and more than 10,000 people total sat for the test, New York State Bar Association president Henry Greenberg has said.
Other states, including New Jersey, California and, as of Tuesday, Pennsylvania, have also delayed their July bar exams due to the pandemic.