Dear members of the BC Law community:

I wanted to share the email that went out Monday to third-year students, and update you on a number of ongoing conversations happening around the bar exam. 

As many of you are aware, Massachusetts has postponed its July exam until the fall, as have New York and Connecticut so far. I am attaching the announcement from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Board of Bar Examiners, where they have stated that should large gatherings still be prohibited this fall, they will find other ways to test applicants for admission to the bar.

In Massachusetts, I had already been meeting with law school deans for several months to discuss alternative pathways to bar certification. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, we have been meeting on a weekly basis, either as a local group from Massachusetts or as part of a national deans meeting, to discuss concerns about the bar, as well as other issues that have arisen for legal education as a result of the suspension of most economic activity across the nation. We are firmly committed to building on our earlier work to respond to this current crisis. 

Nationally, opinions among deans about alternative pathways to certification vary, but what is clear is that at least in Massachusetts, law school deans are unified in their desire to explore options. We must be prepared for our new graduates to go to work as social distancing restrictions ease and our economy begins to function properly again, and to do that we must ensure that we have considered additional pathways of certification to practice beyond a fall bar exam. A number of proposals are being discussed, including an expansion of SJC Rule 3:03 for student practitioners and alternative ways of administering the exam. Yesterday, New York announced that it is going to consider an approach similar to expanded 3:03 authority.

The deans here in Massachusetts will have another conversation next week with Marilyn Wellington, Executive Director of the MA Board of Bar Examiners, and her staff. We will be discussing what is being considered in New York, along with other options for interim certification for graduates. Director Wellington and the BBE have been working very hard to find solutions that make sense for both students and the legal community. I am confident that we will be able to come to a consensus on a path forward that will support timely practice opportunities for our future graduates while ensuring the integrity of the legal profession and service to the public in Massachusetts are maintained.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those I have working most directly on all of the bar support and related matters during this time: Nina Farber, Director of Academic Success Programs, Renee Jones, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Mary Bilder (Chair) and the members of the Bar Support Committee, as well as members of the LSA, faculty, and administration who have been working so hard to respond to student concerns during this very difficult time for everyone. I am grateful to be surrounded by talented, compassionate people who are so committed to supporting our students as they wrestle with the extraordinary challenges brought by the COVID-19 virus.

We are working on scheduling another webinar to discuss issues our 3Ls are facing, such as Commencement, loan repayment and financial aid. We will circulate more details on that webinar shortly. I will also update you on any progress made in these ongoing discussions on alternative paths to certification.

Thank you all for your patience as we navigate through this situation together. Know that we are doing absolutely everything we can to ensure the best possible future for our students. My thoughts are with all of you who are suffering both professionally and personally during this crisis. Please continue to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

Vincent Rougeau