Recent law school graduates can apply to the Ohio Supreme Court to practice law under a supervising attorney as they wait for the postponed September bar examination, a decision that brings some clarification to students who raised concerns about the normal July exam schedule.
The Ohio Supreme Court announced Thursday that recent graduates can apply to practice law pending admission to the state bar beginning on June 15. Law school graduates must work under the supervision of Ohio attorneys who have been practicing for at least three years and who are found to be in good standing.
“The Court recognizes the growing need for legal services in many critical areas during this challenging time,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “A delay in the ability of recent graduates to practice law would create a significant economic hardship for those graduates.”
Earlier this week, the court announced the bar exam would be postponed from July 28 and 29 to Sept. 9 and 10 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The location of the examination has yet to be announced.
“The postponement to September only moves the exam by about six weeks. I hope that they can use this time to develop a way to safely administer the exam,” said D. Benjamin Barros, University of Toledo College of Law dean and professor. “I also hope that they will find a way to grade more quickly than they usually do so that the results can come out as close to the usual late-October time period.”
Other states have taken a variety of approaches, such as keeping the July testing date but keeping September dates open if needed. Some states have the potential of having a July and September examination, while other states, like Utah, have opted for a diploma privilege option.
Presidents of student bar associations from law schools across Ohio submitted a petition to the Supreme Court to address the levels of uncertainty of the examination during the global health pandemic. Diploma privilege, which is a method for lawyers to be admitted to the bar without taking the bar exam, was one suggestion provided to the court.
Eli Boldt, a recent graduate who served as the president of the University of Toledo’s student bar association, said there was no one right answer, but he believes the Supreme Court understood the various implications on students as they try to plan for testing preparation in the midst of a health emergency.
“At the end of the day, we have some clarity, which I appreciate, and we can move forward with making study plans and working with our employers. While there can’t be a perfect solution, I think so many people are experiencing the same uncertainty and these new graduates have already proven their resilience,” Mr. Boldt said.
If graduates do not pass the bar examination on their first attempt, their temporary practice privilege will end, the court determined.
A list of requirements can be found on the court’s administrative order.