2020 Law Graduates May Practice Immediately, as July Bar Exam is Cancelled, But Graduates Still Must be Certified by the Committee on Character in Order to Practice

As announced by Chief Justice Rabner here, the July Bar examination has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation. But that situation, the Supreme Court has concluded, after consulting with the Deans of New Jersey’s law schools and “leaders of the bar,” has given rise to “a continuing and growing need for legal services in many critical areas” that newly admitted lawyers can help to satisfy.

Accordingly, the Court is permitting “2020 graduates of ABA accredited law schools who have not previously taken the bar examination” to practice law temporarily. Such temporary practice can occur only under the supervision of an attorney who has been licensed for at least three years.

Though the requirement of passing the Bar examination has been temporarily relaxed (2020 graduates must, however, apply, pay fees, and sit for the first available Bar exam, which may be as early as September 2020, subject to certain exceptions), the requirement of certification by the Committee on Character remains unchanged. 2020 graduates must apply to the Committee and be certified before being able to take advantage of the temporary right to practice that the Court has announced.

Certification by the Committee has thus taken on even greater importance for 2020 graduates. Those who may have issues that might impede certification by the Committee would be wise to consult counsel experienced in that area promptly.

As described here, I am one such attorney, though there are a few others as well. The Court has stated that the Committee “will endeavor to expedite [its] process,” which ordinarily “can take months.” Experienced counsel can often help to accelerate the process for candidates.