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Oregon Law

Oregon Offers Law Grads Diploma Privilege

The Oregon Supreme Court has voted to waive the July bar exam for 2020 graduates of Oregon law grads.

In a divisive decision, the court voted 4-3 last week to allow new grads from Oregon’s three law schools to practice in the state without bar passage, Willamette Week reports. The decision follows requests from the University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark College, and Willamette University law schools for the court to offer grads “diploma privilege.”

“There are very real concerns for our graduates in preparing for the exam,” the deans wrote to Chief Justice Martha Walters on June 15. “All students in our three law schools had to finish their law school careers remotely, sometimes under dire home circumstances due to COVID-19. While finishing law school, some students home-schooled their children; others suffered job loss; and still, others coped with family members who fell ill became unemployed, or even died.”

THE ORDER

Under the court’s order, law grads who applied to take the July 2020 Oregon bar exam will be granted a one-time “diploma privilege.”

Additionally, the order includes reducing Oregon’s passing score for the July 2020 bar exam from 274 to 266 and authorizing an online-only October bar exam.

RESPONSE

Experts say Oregon’s decision is a step in the right direction, considering the circumstances around COVID-19.

“I think [Oregon’s decision] is going to help other jurisdictions give careful thought to the diploma privilege option,” Jeffrey Dobbins, associate dean of academic affairs at Willamette University College of Law, tells Law.com. “Certainly, the changing COVID-19 numbers are going to have to lead a lot of jurisdictions to be flexible in a way that I think they were not expecting to have to be when they started this planning back in March, April and May.”

Sources: Willamette Week, Oregon Supreme Court, Law.com

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