500 signatures reached
To: Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Board of Law Examiners
Diploma Privilege for Iowa Bar Applicants
Please make the upcoming Iowa bar examination optional in line with the Wisconsin model. Allow Drake Law and Iowa Law 2020 graduates who would like to still sit the bar exam to do so as planned, and grant diploma privilege the remaining graduates. We are scared for our health and safety and the health and safety of our loved ones.
Why is this important?
1. It is not safe to hold the Iowa bar examination.
Iowa was listed as a "red zone" in a document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force leaked on July 17th, with over 100 cases per 100,000 people. Those numbers are highest in Polk County, where the bar exam is set to take place on July 28-29. On July 16th the Iowa Department of Public Health reported a record high of 879 positive test cases in 24 hours - the highest at any point since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 777 Iowans have died from this pandemic already.
The CDC reports that the highest risk of COVID-19 spreading at events is for large in-person gatherings where it is difficult to keep people at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area. The Iowa bar exam is set to occur as an event that has the highest risk of COVID-19 spread in one of the hardest-hit counties within a "red zone" state. While we have some guidance for exam day, we have no guidance for what mealtimes, bathroom breaks, registration, and any other interactions throughout the day will look like. There is evidence that masks are fairly effective in small gatherings outdoors, but we truly have no understanding of their effectiveness in a room with 200+ people for 16 hours over the course of 2 days.
2. Iowa's law schools train competent attorneys.
Iowa Law has an over 95% pass rate for the Iowa bar exam. Drake Law has an 84% pass rate. These institutions are accredited by the American Bar Association and graduate the overwhelming majority of the lawyers that practice in Iowa. To the extent that the bar exam actually determines the competency of lawyers to practice, the fact is that Iowa's legal institutions already train competent lawyers for our state. Only a small handful of graduates from Iowa's legal institutions do not pass the Iowa bar exam. The competency of our profession in the state will not suffer without the 2020 exam and the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic are simply too high.
3. An optional bar exam with diploma privilege is the only true option in the current environment.
Our jobs futures are uncertain, our student loans are coming due, and many of us are living off of credit cards to try and make it to our first paycheck after three years as students. Postponing the exam simply is not an option for us - we don't have the finances to live longer than we already will have to without work. Postponing the exam is a theoretical option, not an economically possible one. Additionally, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic will get better in the coming months, and rescheduling is likely to be a waste of time.
Some students intend to practice only in Iowa, and others intend to transfer their scores to other jurisdictions to begin practice or want to have practice flexibility in the coming years. Allow those students who would like to take the exam as scheduled the opportunity to do so, and grant diploma privilege to all of the Iowa Law and Drake Law graduates. Implementing the Wisconsin model in Iowa would inherently make the exam more safe for those who have to take it by cutting down the number of test takers significantly.
Please grant 2020 Drake Law and Iowa Law graduates diploma privilege, and make the July 2020 bar exam optional. We are scared for our health and safety and the health and safety of our loved ones.
How it will be delivered
We plan to deliver the signatures via email as soon as possible to the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Board of Law Examiners.