(Reuters) - Utah will not offer a bar exam in July due to the coronavirus pandemic, but its high court has ordered that it will allow law school graduates who meet a list of qualifications to become licensed without passing the test, the first state to take that step.
Eligible candidates must have applied to take the state’s bar exam by April 1 and never have taken the bar exam elsewhere in the United States, Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant wrote in an order on Tuesday. They must also graduate by June 30 from an American Bar Association accredited law school that in 2019 had an overall first-time taker bar exam passage rate of at least 86%.
To become licensed, candidates must by Dec. 31 pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, if it is offered in 2020, and complete 360 hours of legal practice under the supervision of a judge or experienced, active Utah attorney (who has been licensed for at least two years in Utah and five years total in any U.S. jurisdiction, with no record of public discipline).
Before becoming licensed, candidates will be allowed to negotiate for clients, appear on behalf of a client in depositions and appear in court or in front of an administrative tribunal, subject to additional restrictions, the order said.
Utah still intends to administer a bar exam later this year, if possible.
Other states, including New York and New Jersey have previously said they are postponing their July bar exam due to the pandemic. New Jersey earlier this month became the first state to say it would allow spring 2020 graduates to practice law before they pass the test.