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Colorado grad students asking state to push back bar exam out of fear of COVID-19

Lawyer Exam Woes
Posted at 10:05 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 01:15:34-04

DENVER — Future Colorado lawyers are already forced to make a tough choice, their health or career. Instead of taking the bar exam at the end of July, many are choosing to wait until winter out of fears they could contract COVID-19.

Sam Shively has buried himself in his bar exam books.

"I’ve studied for more than 400 hours," he says.

The two-day Colorado bar exam, like many of our surrounding states, begins July 28.

Grad students like Shively are asking the Colorado Supreme Court court to push it back, worried about being in close proximity to other students during test time.

"Doing it online or having a September exam are the only alternatives to what we see now," Shively says.

In Colorado, grads take the Uniform Bar Examination, allowing them to practice in multiple states. The Colorado Supreme Court says there's currently no online option around the country for that test.

However, the state did give the option to skip July and take the exam in February. During that time, those students would be allowed to practice law in a limited practice under the supervision of a qualifying attorney.

"Very few employers are interested in hiring a student with a provisional license," Shively tells Denver7.

Jessica Yates, Attorney Regulation Counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court, tells Denver7 they've talked to a number of legal employers about the new rule allowing for supervised practice.

"No employer has told us that they would not hire a new graduate simply because they are certified only for limited, supervised practice for a short period of time. In fact, most law firms closely supervise first-year associates, and often firms will limit what new lawyers can do while they gain more training. Unfortunately, some employers have implemented hiring freezes or delays that will affect the employment rates of recent graduates."

Attorney Ian Hicks says he sees no upside in hiring someone who does not take the exam in two weeks.

"The supervision required under this rule is the type of supervision where you are basically there all this time, watching this attorney work," Hicks said.