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Over 400 law school graduates take bar exam, despite COVID-19 concerns

Justice Scales and books and wooden gavel
Posted at 10:40 AM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 17:17:49-04

PHOENIX — One big event still taking place despite the coronavirus is the Arizona Bar Exam.

Over 400 law school graduates reported to the Phoenix Convention Center Tuesday and Wednesday to take the test. But the decision to continue that in-person testing hasn't come without concerns.

Over 100 law school graduates signed in support of a petition to the Supreme Court of Arizona asking that they are allowed to practice law without taking the exam, otherwise known as "diploma privilege," something they say several states have already put in place as a result of COVID-19.

Five state representatives also asked the court for that privilege on behalf of the graduates, but the court rejected their requests.

Aaron Nash, a spokesperson for the court, says Arizona is one of 20 states going forward with the in-person exam.

Nash says the 280,000 square feet of space in the convention center is three times the space usually allowed for the exam.

He says test-takers will be spread out in three different rooms, filled to about 6-8% capacity. Face masks are required and temperature checks will be done.

But one test-taker ABC15 spoke with fears that won't be good enough.

"The extra precautions are very appreciated but it still poses an incredible burden for students and we're scared," she said. "It's frustrating that you can't hold a wedding or a funeral or go to a restaurant without social distancing but a bar exam with 450 people is A-OK."

Nash says the court is providing other options. One is an online test in October, but if passed, it will not allow them to practice law outside of Arizona.

Another option is that graduates can wait until February 2021 to take the test in person. He says in the meantime, they can also practice law under the supervision of another attorney.