Legal Education

Decision to give DC graduates priority access to bar exam supported by local law school deans

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Updated: Because of seating limitations, Washington, D.C., law school graduates who are first-time test-takers have priority registration for the July 2022 bar exam, the appellate court recently announced, and some deans are not happy about that.

However, the registration plan is supported in a May 11 letter signed by six deans at Washington, D.C., law schools. The jurisdiction uses the Uniform Bar Examination, and the writing noted that there were seating limitations previously, with some local alumni not getting spots for a test that has numerous out-of-state candidates.

“As a result, graduates of D.C.-area law schools, including many of limited means, were forced to scramble to register for, prepare for and travel to bar exams in jurisdictions where they did not live, did not study law and never planned to practice in order to use that score to waive into and become a member of the DC Bar,” according to the letter.

Previously, the District of Columbia’s in-person bar exam was given at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. But an anime convention has booked the site for the same days as the July bar exam, Above the Law reports. The July 2022 bar exam will be administered at the DC Armory, and it has 1,100 available seats, according to the court website.

On Thursday evening, the court announced that it was adding an additional 450 seats at the University of the District of Columbia.

“Although we do not expect to fill the seats during the priority registration, it is not possible to predict how many seats will remain when general registration opens,” the court wrote.

A May 2 letter signed by more than 100 out-of-state law school deans, which was sent to Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, described the situation as “tremendously disruptive,” Law.com reports. The writing noted that priority registration wasn’t announced until May 2.

The fee to transfer UBE scores for those who take the exam in a different jurisdiction will be discounted from $418 to $232, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote in a May 6 statement. Priority registration runs from May 12 to May 17, and general registration opens May 18, according to the court website.

In May 2020, New York, also a state that uses the UBE, announced that its July bar exam would be limited to in-state graduates because of COVID-19 concerns. That turned out to be a nonissue, after the court announced that it was shifting to a remote UBE.

Updated May 12 at 7:19 p.m. to include announcement about additional venue.

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