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Jobs in the time of Corona: Supporting Diploma Privilege in this Unprecedented Time

July 05, 2020

by Devra Sigle Hermosilla, Assistant Dean of Career & Professional Development

When we learned that the Supreme Courts of Washington - and then Oregon - compassionately extended diploma privilege to our 2020 grads registered for the currently-scheduled-for-now July 2020 bar exam, our department turned its attention to gathering information to help our students make this incredibly difficult and important decision.

We received overwhelming support from our fantastic employers within the Oregon and Washington legal communities. I would like to share below an important message from Portland City Attorney Tracey Reeve (Lewis & Clark College undergraduate alumna) supporting diploma privilege and highlighting the City’s commitment to nondiscrimination, a message that has been echoed by our supportive legal communities - from the Oregon Department of Justice across county governmental employers and law firms alike:

“Last Monday, the Oregon Supreme Court granted diploma privilege to all 2020 graduates of Oregon law schools, meaning that Oregon law school graduates would not need to sit for the July Oregon Bar Exam. This is the law of the land. We believe it is also common sense equity.

The Portland City Attorney’s Office applauds the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision. We want the graduates of the Class of 2020 to know that we will not discriminate against any Oregon lawyer in hiring based on the manner in which they obtained their license.

For the last month, across our city and country, indeed across the world, community members have gathered together to grieve, show solidarity, and demand police accountability and racial justice. The horrific murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans has clearly exposed for all to see the harsh reality that racism continues to rob our Black communities of life, safety, health, and prosperity.

Additionally, since March, we have been experiencing a global pandemic, which while exceptionally difficult for all, has disproportionately affected BIPOC communities. We are concerned that requiring law school graduates to study for, take, and pass the bar exam during a period of such tumult will perpetuate the continuing effects of institutionalized racism.

We believe that requiring law graduates to abandon all financial advancement, stability, and time under the circumstances we find ourselves in today to study for a two-day exam is inequitable. Those inequities fall most heavily on BIPOC and immigrant communities, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault, and those with caretaker responsibilities—which most often affect women. We strongly urge other legal employers, including private law firms, to join us in committing to hold applicants for attorney positions with diploma privilege on completely equal terms as applicants who have passed the bar exam.

By Monday at midnight, the 2020 graduates have to decide whether to sit for an unnecessary two day test that has the potential to endanger the lives of themselves and their families, or to accept their license and begin to do good in the community. We stand with all law graduates of the class of 2020. You are worthy of your license and we welcome you into the legal community with open arms. We hope our fellow legal employers will do the same.”

 

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