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Letters to the Editor: New lawyers can’t take the bar exam. The L.A. Times’ proposed fix wouldn’t help

Law students take a practice bar exam at UC Berkeley in 2017.
Law students take a practice bar exam during a test-prep class at UC Berkeley in 2017.
(Sam Deaner / Associated Press)

To the editor: As a recent law school graduate, I take issue with your suggestion that the California Supreme Court grant provisional licenses that would only be valid “until [applicants] could take an online bar exam in October or the traditional in-person exam next year, or whenever it can next be safely administered.” With all due respect, that is perhaps the least helpful solution for people like me.

First, provisional licensing unfairly burdens the class of 2020 by forcing them to study for a future bar exam while working full time. Those graduates will therefore be at a severe disadvantage relative to individuals who are privileged enough to receive time off from their employer (such as associates at big or financially stable law firms), and individuals who will graduate in winter or spring next year, who are able to study full time before beginning work.

Many have argued that individuals who would normally pass the bar may not this year due to the inequities created by the pandemic. Similarly, if the court chooses provisional licensing, many individuals who would normally pass the bar will not because they had to work full time while studying.

Second, it is not clear whether employers will be willing to hire provisionally licensed graduates. Employers want certainty that their new attorneys will be fully focused on their clients and their new job. Provisional licensing does not give them that certainty.

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An online exam would be better than provisional licensing, as it will allow recent graduates to take the exam and move on with their careers, fully focused on serving their clients. Yet it poses its own concerns, both technological and equitable.

The court’s decision should allow 2020 graduates to begin their careers fully focused on serving their clients, either via diploma privilege with guardrails or, if that is not feasible, an online bar exam.

Jasjaap S. Sidhu, Los Angeles


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