The controversy over how and whether to administer the July 2020 bar examination during the COVID-19 pandemic upended the usual process of lawyer regulation. New actors—including bar applicants—very publicly challenged regulators’ decisions and questioned the safety and fairness of plans for the bar exam. Some advocated for emergency admission without the need to satisfy the bar examination requirement. Joined by law school deans and faculty, the advocacy occurred against the backdrop of the politicization of COVID-19, street protests over police misconduct and racial inequality, and long-standing skepticism about the value and fairness of the bar exam. Regulators throughout the United States reached very different decisions about how to proceed. This article uses eight case studies of states’ responses to explore why these differences occurred. They reveal how a state’s political culture and political attitudes toward the pandemic seemingly informed some regulators’ responses. Institutional relationships among the courts, the bar examiners, and sometimes, the organized bar also affected the decisionmakers. In addition, the courts’ attitudes toward innovation and its desire to maintain the reputation of the bar seemingly played a role. The article sheds new light on the politics of bar admission and the state supreme courts’ role in lawyer regulation.
Levin, Leslie C.
"The Politics of Bar Admission: Lessons from the Pandemic,"
Hofstra Law Review: Vol. 50:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/hlr/vol50/iss1/5