Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Update from Texas: Advocating for Changes in the July Bar Exam

In Texas, a new form of advocacy to the Texas Supreme Court is taking shape around the bar exam. COVID-19 cases are climbing in the state,
and while this has been an issue faced in many states throughout the pandemic, the timing in Texas feels dire because of the rapid increase and short time until the bar.

Earlier in the pandemic, Texas had changed from a two and a half day bar to two days, and split the administration from only July to July and September to allow for more social distancing. At the time those changes were made, infection rates in Texas were relatively low. With less than a month until the planned July administration though, recent graduates, law school deans, professors, and other supporters are putting pressure on the Texas Supreme Court and the Board of Legal Examiners to come up with another plan that better protects the health of the examinees.
Tomorrow, the Board of Legal Examiners in Texas is holding an open, online meeting to discuss the administration of the bar exam.

The deans of all ten Texas law schools have signed this letter proposing three potential solutions: remote administration, apprenticeship, and diploma privilege. Recent graduates have made a big push for diploma privilege. With mere weeks until the July administration, any major change in the actual exam does not give enough time to the examinees to adjust. Additionally, many examinees do not have appropriate conditions at home to test remotely.

To hit this point home, graduates have been releasing personal impact statements via Twitter to illustrate their hardship Also, the bar exam in Houston will be administered at NRG stadium, the same location where surge capacity for COVID-19 is planned. Recent graduates have effectively used imagery of the tents and of officials in hazmat suits to illustrate the absurdity of taking the bar exam there in a month.

Certainly, the Texas Supreme Court and the Board of Legal Examiners have a difficult decision to make, but protecting the public from unprepared attorneys should not come at the expense of exposing examinees to COVID-19 and risking further spread throughout the public. It’s also incumbent on these Texas leaders to treat these examinees with humanity and compassion. I’m proud of our recent graduates for advocating for themselves and their peers.

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