Petition gains support for Virginia Board of Bar Examiners to accept diploma privilege

Published: Jul. 11, 2020 at 12:19 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In just over two weeks, several hundred people will travel to Roanoke to take the Virginia Bar Exam, which is being held in person, and there are major health concerns.

”You know we don’t really have a choice, because we can’t start work until we’re barred, so that puts a lot of people in a position where they feel like they do have to take a risk, whether or not they feel safe about it,” said recent law school graduate, Alyssa Leader.

For the last four months travel has been limited. Many Americans are heeding the warnings to stay home. But for recent law school graduates, travel is looking like a necessity.

”A lot of people told me the only time they ever came to Roanoke was when they took the Bar exam,” said Senator John Edwards for Roanoke’s 21st district.

The Bar exam, which is administered by the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, is required to practice law of any kind in Virginia and many other states, except for a few that have adopted diploma privilege.

“Diploma Privilege strictly interpreted is specifically to give folks a license and not make them take an exam in the future,” said Leader.

Leader is a University of North Carolina law school graduate who has registered for the Virginia Bar.

But she's also one of several organizers of a petition asking Virginia not to require the bar.

It already has more than 800 signatures.

“A lot of lawyers would say, ‘well I graduated from law school why do I have to do this,' well it’s a requirement. But I do think they can listen to what people are saying,” said Edwards.

While Senator Edwards is not on the Board of Bar Examiners, he has received several inquiries about the upcoming test.

He drafted a letter to the board asking them to consider the possible health risks.

We checked in with the Berglund Center about the test. They sent us the following statement:

“The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (VBE) is a state agency and because administering the bar exams is a core function of this agency, Berglund Center staff is working closely with the VBE to conduct the tests in a safe and healthy environment for staff, faculty and students. Based on the anticipated attendance and the various venues used, the VBE will be in compliance with the current Phase 3 guidelines.”

The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners declined to comment, and referred us to their website.

The petition will be sent to the board, as well as the Virginia Supreme Court, on Monday. The test will be held on July 28 and 29.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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