SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A new proposal by the Utah Supreme Court has some lawyers raising an objection. The court is holding public comment until April 16 on if recent law graduates should take the bar exam because of COVID-19.
“I think this is the [Utah] Supreme Court’s way of making it way to easy to become a licensed attorney in Utah, which goes against everything the Utah State Bar has stood for,” said Emy Cordano of COR LAW.
Cordano says the Utah Bar raised scoring because applicants were coming from different states who failed that state bar.
“Which lead to serious issues down the road once they became attorneys,” she said.
The proposed order would grant a privilege to graduates with a law degree from an American Bar Association-approved law school, who have an exam success of 86 percent or higher and graduated between May 1, 2019- June 30th, 2020, and applied before April 1st, 2020.
It goes on to state the potential lawyers must serve 360 hours at a supervised legal practice.
Rebecca Long Okura with Long Okura, P.C., Attorneys at Law tells ABC4 News, “As a hiring managing attorney, I see how much new lawyers struggle to acclimate to legal work. There is a definite correlation to their success as new lawyers to their bar performance. It’s not just KNOWLEDGE of the law, the bar exam teaches time management skills and dealing with pressure. When the public (clients) have attorney complaints, they tend to be about time and competency under pressure! The bar exam exists to protect the public!”
“I see no reason why they should get a free pass,” Cordano added. “The bar exam is the supreme test of whether or not you are going to make it as a lawyer in the courtroom.”
She says there needs to be a way to indicate these lawyers did not pass the state bar exam if this goes through.
“People like me who own law firms are not going to hire any of the 2020 graduates because we are going to know that they were not tried and tested,” she said. “Whatever issues the [Utah] Supreme Court is trying to address by doing this, I believe it is only going to make them worse because if I have a chose between a candidate who has passed the bar exam versus a candidate who didn’t even take the bar exam, easy decision.”
That’s what Heidi Chamorro fears. She planned on taking the Utah Bar Exam in July.
“It just seems a little unfair that those who are recent graduates won’t have to take it at all even in a few months,” she said.
Chamorro fought to take the bar exam as a DACA recipient and recently won her ruling.
“I think that either everyone should have to take the bar exam or everyone who signed up for the July Bar should have the same rule and not have to take it,” Chamorro said.
Lawyers ABC4 News spoke with say the Utah Supreme Court should look at delaying the test, hold it in a large enough building to allow for social distancing or make the test available online.
Having the test online is something Chamorro likes adding, “You trust law students to do take-home tests and trust that they do them on their own and don’t get help, why wouldn’t you trust a law grad to do the same thing?”
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