FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: [email protected]
Earlier today Diploma Privilege for the District of Columbia (DP4DC) submitted a petition to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals asking the Court to amend its requirements for admission to the DC Bar to include licensure by emergency diploma privilege for all applicants registered for the October 2020 DC Bar Exam in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition, drafted by applicants to the Bar, was signed by over 1,100 people, including licensed attorneys in DC, law students, and professors from law schools across the country. The petition follows a letter in support of diploma privilege from the Deans of all seven DC-area law schools.
Typically, law school graduates become licensed attorneys in DC by taking a two-day exam, that provides a score that is transferable to 34 other jurisdictions. This year, the DC Bar moved its exam from July to October, to an online, condensed format, with a score that is no longer transferable.
The delay in licensure has, for most applicants, resulted in a delay in employment. Thus, rather than testing applicants’ competence, this online examination will test applicants’ access: access to emergency funds and expensive bar prep programs, to reliable highspeed internet, computers with webcams, and private study spaces. It neglects to consider applicants facing housing and food insecurity resulting from the pandemic and delayed employment, as well as applicants who are caregivers to children, parents, or sick relatives. And it will do this while using untested software and artificial intelligence, which creates concerns about security and reliability.
Administering an online exam will only exacerbate the existing inequities in our profession. Doing so during a pandemic that is already disproportionately affecting people of color and lower-income citizens goes against the very notions of justice our profession strives diligently to uphold.
DP4DC has therefore asked the Court of Appeals to return to its former model of attorney licensure: diploma privilege. The petition asks the Court to amend its current rules for admission to include licensure by emergency diploma privilege for all applicants to the October 2020 DC Bar Exam. As the seat of the Federal Government, DC is well-positioned to be a leader in the diploma privilege movement. Emergency diploma privilege would allow applicants to the DC Bar to do what they went to law school to do: work hard and help others.
DP4DC is the DC Chapter of United for Diploma Privilege, a national movement founded in March 2020. Our mission is simple: to secure diploma privilege for DC Bar applicants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though primarily composed of recent law graduates, our coalition and our chapter are open to all. For more information, visit dp4dc.org and unitedfordiplomaprivilege.org or visit us on Twitter @dp4dc.