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Law Schools

ABA Approves Limited Practice for Law School Graduates

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The ABA approved a resolution on Tuesday urging states to authorize limited practice for recent law graduates.

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Lawwly Contributor

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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the ABA approved a resolution on Tuesday urging states to adopt emergency rules that authorizes limited practice for recent law school graduates. 


The authorization applies to 2019 and 2020 law graduates as well as graduates of prior years who have been serving as judicial law clerks since graduation who have not yet taken a bar examination. 


Eligibility depends on whether the July 2020 bar examination in their jurisdiction is cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. Those who previously failed a bar exam are ineligible. Applicants must also graduate from an accredited law school or a provisionally accredited school by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the ABA. 


The limited authority would extend through an applicant’s licensure, which includes taking the bar itself, the wait-time for grading and results, and any time after that “ordinarily needed” for the bar admission authority to complete the licensure process. 


The resolution advocated for adopting jurisdictions to include a registration requirement for the applicant. Applicants would need to register with the appropriate regulatory authority and comply with their registration requirements, which may include application fees. Additionally, the resolution urged jurisdictions to require “direct supervision” by an already-practicing lawyer as defined in ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct §5.1(b).

The supervising lawyer would be required to commit in writing to the requirements of the role as a part of the applicant’s application for the limited authority. Further, applicants would need to disclose to clients, courts, and others of the limited nature of their authority to practice. The effect of this rule would allow recent graduates to appear in court, subject to each jurisdiction’s conditions. 


According to the resolution, Arizona and Tennessee have already adopted similar emergency rules and New Jersey also recently announced a supervised practice provision. 


The vote was unanimous, but some board members expressed concerns about the suggested emergency rule being unfair to people who failed the February 2020 bar exam. Others said it might be better to wait to act on the resolution.

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