Is Diploma Privilege Here To Stay?

Is Diploma Privilege Here To Stay?

More than 1,000 recent law school grads are getting licenses without taking the Bar Exam.

Through emergency “diploma privilege,” new associates can skip the exam and practice the law, Bloomberg Law reports.


A number of state jurisdictions have enacted emergency diploma privilege in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They include Louisiana, Washington, D.C.; Utah; Oregon; and Washington.

Proponents of diploma privilege argue that the traditional system of requiring bar passage for licensing attorneys needs to be re-examined going forward.

“There are some important questions being answered about how we license attorneys. Students go into immense debt to pursue a law degree, and then they have to pay more money to study for the bar exam. I didn’t think it was a good system when I was a student, and the time has come to reexamine how we do this,” Jacob Rooksby, the dean of Gonzaga University School of Law, tells the ABA Journal.

For many law firms, passing the bar exam simply isn’t a large concern when it comes to being a successful lawyer.

“These associates established their capabilities and we chose them because we are confident they will become excellent, successful lawyers who will fit well in our firm,” Bahareh Samanian, the director of lawyer recruiting at Davis Wright Tremaine, tells Bloomberg Law.


For many jurisdictions, the diploma privilege was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it harder for law school grads to take the Bar Exam in-person.

Last year, Utah was the first jurisdiction to enact an emergency diploma privilege for law school graduates. So far, only Wisconsin and New Hampshire have permanent diploma privilege.

But many experts say diploma privilege, while originally a temporary solution, may be a useful solution to keep going forward.

“The question is, as they study what happened in the past year, is there enough interest in doing something permanent,” Gordon Smith, the dean of Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, tells the ABA Journal.

Sources: Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, American Bar Association

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