No bar exam? Pa. law students might get chance to become licensed without it

PITTSBURGH — COVID-19 has created challenges for law students to get licensed, but leaders are now looking to make things easier.

Law students in Pennsylvania have always had to pass the bar exam to officially become a lawyer. However, considering social distancing and other restrictions, that might change.

Following months of review, the Pennsylvania Bar Association has recommended that recent law graduates be given a “diploma privilege,” allowing them to get their license as long as they’ve met other requirements and haven’t previously failed the bar exam.

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The recommendation comes after pandemic restrictions postponed the historically in-person exam multiple times. Currently, it’s scheduled to take place over three days in October -- all online.

The Bar Association noted in its recommendation that not all graduates have reliable internet access. It also said gathering limitations might impact schools from hosting the exam, and most graduates pass the test the first time.

The first-time pass rate is 80%.

The Bar Association said the recommendation is not made lightly, and it “remains committed to the integrity of the profession and ensuring that the public receives the type of representation to which it is entitled.”