From the Chair

Diane F. Bosse
Special Counsel
Hurwitz & Fine, P.C.
2019-2020 Council Chair

It is the announced and long-held belief of the American Bar Association and the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar “that every candidate for admission to the bar should have graduated from a law school approved by the ABA and that every candidate for admission should be examined by public authority to determine fitness for admission.”[1]  As recently as April of this year, the ABA Board of Governors reaffirmed “the historic and longstanding policy of the ABA supporting the use of a bar examination as an important criterion for admission to the bar.”[2]

Last July, 31,974 graduates of ABA-approved law schools took the bar exam for the first time.  A total of 25,233 – 79% – passed the exam.[3]  One in five failed. 

These are unprecedented times.  But that we are navigating our way through a pandemic that seems to be worsening by the day is not a reason to abandon the value we have long-placed on an appropriately rigorous bar exam as critical both to the integrity of the legal profession and to the protection of the public that we serve.

It is undeniable that the law graduates of 2020 face obstacles to entry to practice unlike any other class.  Due to public health and safety concerns and governmental restrictions on crowd density and social distancing, traditional summer bar exams have been delayed and, in many jurisdictions, are now cancelled.

But, at the same time, many jurisdictions are offering other options.  Several jurisdictions have followed the wise counsel of the ABA and have adopted emergency rules that authorize our recent law graduates who would have taken the bar exam for the first time in July to engage temporarily in the practice of law, with supervision or other appropriate safeguards.  Several jurisdictions have decided to administer an emergency remote testing option offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners in its continuing efforts to assist jurisdictions in these difficult times.[4]

Financial pressures on this class of graduates hopefully will be tempered somewhat by legislative action impacting student loan repayments. 

These are not perfect solutions to the upheaval in the lives of recent graduates.  But nor is it the solution to deprive the public of the confidence that comes from knowing that the lawyers they retain have demonstrated their competence to practice law on a carefully crafted test of their legal knowledge and lawyering skills.  There is room for debate as to whether or not the bar exam we have is the right one; we shouldn’t argue, however, about whether or not we should have one. 

This is my last column as chair of the Council.  As I leave this position, I would like to recognize the hard-working staff of the Managing Director’s Office.  They are a dedicated and immensely talented group.  The support they provide to the work of the Council is the grease that keeps the train moving.  I am so grateful to them for their assistance to me as I endeavored, however imperfectly, to lead the Council this year. 

Thanks also to the members of the Council for their good work, friendship, and support. They are among the brightest and most engaging people with whom I have ever been privileged to work.  What I most regret about the move to virtual meetings is the loss of the sidebar, cocktail, and meal conversations with this interesting and collegial crowd.  I look forward to working under the extraordinary leadership of Scott Bales in the coming year, and do hope that we will be able to meet together again and resume those conversations.

Congratulations to Stephanie Giggetts, newly named Deputy Managing Director!  Stephanie has served us well as Accreditation Counsel, and is uniquely prepared to assume her new role as Deputy.  Stephanie has skillfully stewarded our Standards Review process and relationship with the Department of Education over the last several years, and it is a true pleasure to work with her.  Having a home-grown team with Bill Adams as Director and Stephanie as his Deputy has critical advantages in the times we face.  

The Annual Meeting of the Section will be held on July 31st.  At that time, I expect we will elect the slate nominated by the Nominating Committee under the able leadership of Maureen O’Rourke.  I congratulate and welcome the new members of the Council – Craig Boise, Susan Kay, Hon. Bridget Mary McCormack, and Anders Miller –  as we bid good-bye, with our deepest thanks, to our departing members – Jim Hanks, Jeff Lewis, Greg Murphy, and Zach Faircloth.

Finally, this month marks the end of years of service in the Managing Director’s office by Barry Currier.  I have known Barry for many years, intersecting with him in several different roles – his and mine.  He is a brilliant strategic thinker, a valued thought leader, and a persuasive partner in the minefield of legal education.  I have benefitted enormously over the years from his guidance and wise counsel.  And I have enjoyed his friendship and that of his dear wife, Marilyn.  I know that Barry will be called upon in the future to contribute his significant talent to the issues facing legal education, and that he will eagerly agree to do so.  For now, thanks, Barry.  All the best.  Can’t wait to see what you do next.

To all members of the Section, stay healthy and well.

Warm regards,

Diane

[1] See Preface to Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, 2019-2020 at page v.

[2] See Resolution adopted 4/7/20, at page 2.
https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/news/2020/04/bog-040720r.pdf

[3] https://thebarexaminer.org/2019-statistics/2019-first-time-exam-takers-and-repeaters-from-aba-approved-law-schools/

[4] See description at: http://www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/

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