Recent law graduates, professors urging Missouri Supreme Court to postpone bar exam

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ST. LOUIS – Hundreds of recent law school graduates are calling on the supreme court to postpone an upcoming bar exam.

“This will be a viruses dream come true,” said Michael Durham, SLU law graduate.

Frustrated is an understatement when it comes to how Durham is feeling as the Missouri Bar Exam inches closer and the risk to take the test becomes greater.

“This is supposed to be one of the most important in my life, but when I walk out of those doors, I’ll be preoccupied taking another test and that’s the COVID test,” said Durham.

Durham, along with some 700 other exam takers, will be split between two testing centers to take the exam that serves as the gatekeeper between practicing law.

The law graduate says he had no clue the decision to take it would become a battle of life or death.

“My room will have 265 people in it,” said Durham. “So, no matter how much protection and precaution you take, it is impossible to stop the spread, and statically speaking many people in that room will have COVID, they will be Asymptomatic.”

In a stand of solidarity, law professors and deans from several law schools across Missouri have written letters urging the Missouri Supreme Court to rethink the in-person bar exam.

The professors are encouraging two alternatives instead:

  • The first, to adopt a one-time provision admission option that would allow recent graduates to practice law for one year under a probationary period.
  • The second would allow current applicants who passed the character and fitness screening in Missouri to hold a temporary license under supervision.

“We have so many loans and a lot of us budgeted up until the bar exam so trying to figure out alternatives is next to impossible, it feels like,” said Fluffy Kilburn, UMKC law student.

Kilburn thought that letter would spark members of the Supreme Court and potentially compel them to postpone the Bar Exam all together.

She says her hopes were crushed when the Clerk of the Missouri Supreme Court released this statement, “the court has concluded none of these alternatives adequately ensures the core function of licensure. Even though the pandemic has created unprecedented challenges to the core responsibility of court and the board, [this] order best balances that long-term responsibility and these short-term burdens.”

The law graduates say the court is positioning itself on the wrong side of history.

“Not one person should be permanently injured, sick to the point of being hospitalized or possibly die to prove they’re competent to be a lawyer,” said Durham.

Test takers for the Bar exam are expected to meet next Tuesday for the first test.

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