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Law School Deans in Texas, California Advocate for Diploma Privilege

Following the lead of the deans of Washington and Oregon’s law schools, who won diploma privilege for their graduates, law school deans in Texas and California have taken up the fight in their states.

Earlier today, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Berkeley Law stated in an email to 2020 graduates of Berkeley Law that the deans of all ABA-accredited law schools in California would advocate for diploma privilege in a meeting with the California Supreme Court and California Bar Examiners on Thursday, July 2. Dean Chemerinsky along with Dean David Faigman of UC Hastings, Dean Jennifer Mnookin of UCLA Law, and Dean Song Richardson of UC Irvine Law will serve as the spokespeople. In his email, Dean Chemerinsky writes, on behalf of the deans of California’s law schools, “We support diploma privilege for all graduates of ABA-accredited law schools . . . This would be permanent admission to the bar without ever needing to take the bar exam.” Dean Chemerinsky concludes his email by noting that the decision came after many Berkeley Law graduates wrote to him, asking that he advocate for diploma privilege.

Meanwhile, a letter sent today to the Texas Supreme Court, signed by the deans of all of Texas’s law schools, advocates for diploma privilege, or any alternative to Texas’s current plan of an in-person, July bar exam. On diploma privilege, the deans write, “While this approach is unprecedented in recent times, Texas has utilized the diploma privilege to license new attorneys in the past. But, these are unprecedent [sic] times.” The deans also identify some of the challenges associated with online bar exams, noting the “technology concerns inherent in remote administration: Test takers must have access to the proper technology. The technology must work without failure. The examinee must be in a venue in which the exam can be taken without the distractions of noise and interruptions.”

Diploma privilege has been introduced in response to COVID-19 in Washington, Oregon, and Utah. It has been offered in some form for years in both Wisconsin and New Hampshire.