Here’s how the Utah Supreme Court is providing a path to licensure for bar applicants despite COVID-19

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) — On Tuesday, the Utah Supreme Court entered an order allowing certain Utah State Bar applicants to practice law in Utah if they were unable to take the bar exam due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from the State of Utah Judicial Council.

The applicants are required to complete 360 hours of practice with an experienced attorney and must either graduate from a law school with a high bar passage rate or be in good standing and licensed in a different jurisdiction.

This order is a temporary accommodation for those who had applied to take the Utah bar exam in July 2020.

“We know that applicants invest several weeks and thousands of dollars preparing to take the bar exam,” stated Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant. “Because of the crisis, not only could we not guarantee that Utah could offer the bar examination safely, we could not tell applicants when they should start to invest the time and money to prepare for the exam.” The Utah Supreme Court explored a number of possible solutions, including administering the examination under social distancing protocols or permitting these applicants to work under the “third-year practice rule” until an exam could be offered. Because the examination is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, certain potential paths, like remote examination, may at some point become available, but it is unclear when, or even if, that might occur. “We hope that the bar exam will in some form become available sooner than is now anticipated, but at present, the other solutions we have examined have an unacceptable level of uncertainty for applicants and employers,” said Durrant.

The Utah Supreme Court sent out a draft proposal on April 19, 2020 that would provide a path for some recent law school graduates to licensure. The proposal received over 500 comments and gained national attention. After reviewing the comments, the Court revised the order to include those licensed to practice law in another state and broadened the scope of those who could be supervisors to the applicants.

In order to be considered a “qualified candidate,” the applicant must have submitted an application to take the bar exam before or on April 1, 2020.

Qualified candidates are required to meet other typical qualifications to be an accepted member of the Utah bar. For example, they must still undergo a character and fitness check and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.

The Utah Supreme Court will not require non-qualified candidates to wait until the next regularly-scheduled bar exam in February 2021, but will work with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to offer the exam in Utah as soon as possible, taking safety into account.

For more information on the order, click here.

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