The COVID-19 crisis has put a halt to all large-scale gatherings for the foreseeable future. In addition to social gatherings, this may also mean that candidates may not be able to gather in various locations throughout the state for the July 2020 bar exam.
Earlier this week, the New York State Bar Association convened an emergency task force to consider alternatives for the July 2020 bar exam. Justice Alan Scheinkman, the chair of the task force and the presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department, told Law360 (paywall) that the task force is considering a variety of options including postponing the exam, or administering the test online or in small groups. The task force is also considering recommending possible legislative changes that would permit unlicensed law graduates to practice provisionally for a period of time until they are able to sit for the bar exam.
The decision to possibly postpone or cancel the July 2020 bar exam would have a significant impact on employers, law graduates, and the clients alike. As one group of academics recently observed: "Each year, more than 24,000 graduates of ABA-accredited law schools begin jobs that require bar admission. The legal system depends on this yearly influx to maintain client service. The COVID-19 crisis, moreover, will dramatically increase the need for legal services, especially among those who can least afford those services. We cannot reduce entry to the profession at a time when client demand will be at an all-time high." In addition, law firms who may be hiring recent law graduates will need to make sure that those individuals are appropriately supervised and are not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law pending admission.