Earlier today, Louisiana became the fourth jurisdiction to grant emergency COVID-19 diploma privilege, wisely following in the footsteps of Utah, Washington, and Oregon. These four states rejoin Wisconsin and New Hampshire, both of which have long offered diploma privilege, once the national standard for bar admission.
The Louisiana Supreme Court’s order extends diploma privilege to first-time bar applicants who had registered for the bar exam in Louisiana and graduated from an ABA-accredited law school. The order maintains character & fitness requirements, ensuring that all applicants have passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), the standard legal ethics exam, and have completed a background check. Although we favor a more inclusive diploma privilege, the order makes great strides toward equitable bar admission during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those who do not meet the requirements of the diploma privilege order or who otherwise wish to take the bar exam, the Louisiana Supreme Court will also offer two remote administrations of a one-day bar exam, on August 24 and October 10.
The one-day exam will permit the use of scratch paper, a standard and often necessary exam practice. By offering the exam as early as August, entailing a mere one month delay, Louisiana reduces the economic hardship on bar applicants. By offering a one-day exam on two different days, Louisiana also reduces the risk of technical or environmental difficulties interfering with the exam. Coupled with diploma privilege for well-qualified bar applicants, Louisiana’s order smartly ensures that the people of Louisiana will have adequate access to legal services and helps the new lawyers of Louisiana get back to work.
We applaud the wisdom of the Louisiana Supreme Court and we express the utmost gratitude for the courageous leadership of Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson.
Louisiana demonstrates the power of advocacy. Reason prevailed in no small part due to the recent law school graduates and the deans of Louisiana’s law schools who boldly and vigorously advocated for diploma privilege. Together, they delivered a major victory for the people of Louisiana. We congratulate all the new Louisiana attorneys. We will keep up the fight in D.C. and across the country.