The Supreme Court of New Jersey has authorized new law school graduates to begin practicing even though they have not yet passed the bar exam. Under the court’s order, they will be permitted to practice temporarily under the supervision of experienced attorneys.
“At this challenging time, the public has a continuing and growing need for legal services in many critical areas,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner stated in a press release issued by the court. “Newly admitted lawyers can help meet that need. The Court also recognizes that, without a means to pass the bar and obtain a law license, qualified students who expect to graduate this spring may lose job offers, be unable to find legal work, and otherwise suffer financial hardship.”
NJ Supreme Court’s Supervised Practice Order
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s order first confirms that the bar exam scheduled for July cancelled. It goes on to outline a plan to allow law school graduates to temporarily practice by relaxing the New Jersey Rules of Court.
Specifically, Rule 1:21-3 is relaxed and expanded so that 2020 law school graduates who have not previously taken a bar examination may be authorized to practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney who has been licensed to practice for at least three years. The expanded ability to temporarily practice law under the order is limited to 2020 graduates of ABA accredited law schools who have not previously taken the bar examination (“2020 graduates”). They must satisfy the following requirements:
- 2020 graduates must satisfy the provisions of Rule 1:24-1 and submit complete applications to sit for the first bar examination scheduled after graduation (e.g., Fall 2020). Accordingly, 2020 graduates must submit payment of the applicable fee and all materials required for review and certification by the Board and the Committee on Character, no later than the final deadline of June 5, 2020.
- 2020 graduates must be certified by the Committee on Character before they are authorized to practice under supervision under this order.
- After all of the necessary conditions are met, the Board will issue individual orders that temporarily authorize 2020 graduates to practice law under supervision. 2020 graduates may then enter appearances, draft legal documents and pleadings, provide legal services to clients, engage in negotiations and settlement discussions, and provide other counsel consistent with the practice of law in New Jersey, provided that each graduate acts under the supervision of a New Jersey attorney who is in good standing and has held a plenary license to practice law in New Jersey for at least three years. The supervising attorney’s name and bar ID should appear on any papers filed with the courts.
- 2020 graduates are required to apply and sit for the first bar examination scheduled after graduation. 2020 graduates who cannot sit for that examination must apply to the Board to carry over their bar application to the next available administration of the examination (e.g., February 2021).
- The ability to temporarily practice law under supervision will continue until bar examination results are available. 2020 graduates who pass the bar examination and otherwise satisfy the Rules of Court concerning the admission to practice law in New Jersey, which shall automatically supersede and terminate their temporary authorization to practice law under supervision. 2020 graduates who do not pass the bar examination will no longer be eligible to temporarily practice law under supervision.
Several other states, including New York, are currently considering similar plans.