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Government

MA BBO Announces Paltry Plan for Remote Bar Exam

Saturday, April 25, 2020

2020 graduates face an egregious eight-week postponement to their careers.

Written by:

Lawwly Contributor

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Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners announced a plan for 2020 law school graduates in Massachusetts.


The plan outlined steps to proceed with the Massachusetts Bar Examination amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and provided for an opportunity for graduates to appear in court under the student practice rule. SJC Rule 3:03 permits eligible students to appear in civil proceedings and permits eligible students in their final year of law school to appear in civil & criminal proceedings on behalf of the Commonwealth or indigent parties under the general supervision of a member of the bar of the Commonwealth.


This plan would expand the rule to recent graduates.


The plan reportedly outlined three elements:


(1) The bar exam will be conducted using the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) on September 30 and October 1, as long as that exam can be conducted safely, with social distancing in place for all examinees.


(2) If it isn’t possible for the UBE to be conducted safely, an alternative remote exam will be administered, which only grants admission to the Massachusetts bar. If this happens, the BBE will ensure that the exam will be similar in content to the subjects tested on the UBE, so that students who have been preparing for the UBE will not need to make major adjustments in preparing for the Massachusetts-only exam.


(3) The BBE will expedite the grading of the exam and its character and fitness investigations to give law school graduates results by mid-to-late December, which means “only” an eight-week postponement for 2020 graduates in admission to the bar. Applicants with a “pressing need” to be admitted in late December may arrange with the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County to be sworn-in, reducing the delay to “only” five or six weeks.


As a result of this announcement, graduates will be admitted to bar in December, rather than November 16-20, 2020.

Admission ceremonies were moved to January 11-15, 2021.


Students most likely to need to appear in court before they can be sworn in were identified as those who have or will obtain employment with a district attorney, CPCS, a state legal office, or a legal services provider, and who have yet to obtain the SJC Rule 3:03 certification necessary to do so.


Reportedly, the order will permit such students to obtain such certification at any time before graduation. 2020 Law School Graduates, across the nation, face troubling uncertainty in delays for their bar admission.


All the while, their student loans will continue to place a heavy financial burden on their ability to study for the bar exam.


While the MA Board of Bar Examiner believes this delay is “only” eight weeks, this can mean a world of difference for many overlooked recent graduates.


Even then, the additional hoops that the Board is requiring students to jump through “only” reduces the delay to five or six weeks.


Many affected graduates remain unimpressed by the Board’s lackluster attempt at addressing a very real problem facing students today. What happened to the "early practice" rules under consideration for all graduates?


Marilyn Wellington in 2018 had an annual salary of $156,216, a whopping 812% higher than average and 2380% higher than median salary as opposed to other BBE members.

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