NAPABA Mourns the Passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

For Immediate Release: September 21, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) joins the nation in mourning the passing of legal icon, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. NAPABA extends its sincere condolences to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Justice Ginsburg was a brilliant legal mind and a steadfast champion for equal rights throughout her career,” said Bonnie Lee Wolf, president of NAPABA. “The second woman to serve on the Court, Justice Ginsburg paved the way for the women of our generation. Despite graduating first in her class at Columbia Law School, she struggled to find employment. Her confirmation and tenure on the Supreme Court serve as an enduring inspiration and a reminder of the challenges that women face in society and the workplace. I am eternally grateful for her service to our nation. She fought to the very end, and we will honor her memory in doing the same—in our tireless pursuit for justice, equity, and opportunity for all.”

Justice Ginsburg served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years and was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. We will strive to honor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy in the next appointment.

From Jane Jeong: The Ten Tips Our Asian Parents Never Told Us

The typical Asian American formula for success goes something like this: Study really hard in school, graduate at the top of your class, attend an Ivy League college, meet an Ivy League spouse, attend an Ivy League grad school, land that six-figure job at a top law firm / bank / fund / hospital / Google… and then never stop working as hard as humanly possible. Be the first one in the office and the last one out. Keep your head down and let your work speak for itself. Say yes to everything. Please everyone.

I lived by this formula almost all my life. And now, I am trying to unlearn it all.

To their credit, my parents are not traditionally strict Korean parents who ever pressured me to succeed by any means—but then again, they never had to be: I readily did the job for them. I was born a particularly sensitive and amenable child who was very adept at reading others’ needs and emotions and beliefs… who then grew up to be a particularly sensitive and amendable adult who internalized all those things. I too readily absorbed external pressures like a sponge, making note of what others deemed admirable—a Harvard-Yale pedigree, a prestigious job, a pretty paycheckand morphing them as my own desires without question. I took such a singular, hyper-focused approach to my goals, dedicating almost every waking hour of my life perfecting my resume at the expense of… well, just about everything else. I regularly cancelled dates and birthday parties for LSAT classes and conference calls. I prioritized every mindless assignment and deadline above my own sleep, dinners, and mental and physical health. I did not take a single day off for three years. I poured every ounce of me over to my career, my bosses, my coworkers, my clientsand then provisioned whatever leftover time and energy I had to myself and the people I love most. For years I roamed through my days utterly depleted, focusing only on the immediate task at hand and living at the complete mercy of my inbox.

And all of that did pay off. In many ways, my career has greatly benefited from my sheer, militant devotion to success: I have had many doors open for me that I never thought would be possible—precisely because of my masterful ability to architect a perfect-on-paper life. In my past life working for the World Bank, I had a fancy diplomat passport and travelled all over the world assessing potential investment opportunities. In my past life working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, I worked alongside Michelle Kwan (my childhood hero) and attended swanky charity galas with Lady Gaga. In my past life teaching fitness classes, I had the honor of sweating alongside Michelle Obama (my adult hero) and her blessed biceps (ditto). And now, in my current life as an employment attorney, I consider myself very lucky to have the type of job that provides financial and professional security in spite of a global pandemic.

But as grateful and humbled as I am for all the doors that have opened, the mental and emotional costs throughout my journey were, at times, significant. Because the problem with having such a narrow and externally driven formula for success is that it provides us no freedom or permission to look within. It often tosses aside things like happiness and self-trust and authenticity, as though these are secondary afterthoughts rather than the actual essence of what makes us human. It often forsakes the voices inside our own hearts to please those around us. And it was not until I approached thirty (my scary “adult” age), well after I had unwittingly dragged myself to the brink of a crushing depression, that I began to wonder how I had managed to pass all that time without ever questioning what all this was for in the first place.

These days, this is my general story I tell students and law school recruits when they reach out for career advice. I tell them that I feel their concerns, because I understand better than anyone just how much pressure they are putting themselves under and how reassuringly addictive external validation can be. I tell them that graduating in the age of COVID seems really dauntingmuch like when I graduated from college on the heels of the financial crisis and wondered how my friends and I would ever scrounge up jobs in a recessionary economy with zero work experience. I tell them that most of us, as I am learning, actually have no clue what we are doing (no matter our age or title or degree).

I also share all that I learned from years of painful mistakes and detours—everything I wish I had learned long before I so deeply internalized all those external pressures of what my life “should” look like. Long before I began to look outward for truths I could only find within. I share, despite knowing that many of us will repeat my same patterns and mistakes. I share, despite the fact that I am still trying to figure all this out for myself (and probably always will).  I share, hoping that the more we allow ourselves to question all these preconceived notions of success, the more we can give each other the courage to own who we truly are.

And this is what I share:

  1. Let’s take it one day at a time, one hour at a time. I used to be one of those people who always obsessed over where my career was heading or whether I was in the “right” job or how I would ever figure out whatever it is I was supposed to do for the rest of my life. I used to try to plan everything, down to the promotions I hoped to land and the most optimal time in my career to get married or have a baby. But here’s the thing about plans: Life marches on anyway. Our careers—just like our lives—are messy and long and full of glorious surprises. There is simply no way we can see the full roadmap of our lives ahead until we actually live through it. So after years, if not decades, of fruitlessly obsessing over where I was headed and whether I will find my one true passion, I now take a much simpler approach: All I assess is whether I am happy now. Whether I am learning now. Whether the job serves my needs and goals, whatever they may be on any given day, now. I am trusting that the rest will follow suit. I am trusting that whatever information I would need to make a better decision tomorrow will arrive tomorrow—and that’s good enough for me for today.
  1. Let’s be brave enough to bring our whole selves to work. We did not get that job or promotion or scholarship by accident; those doors opened for us because we are genuinely qualified to walk through them—just as we are. My first job out of college was on Wall Street, and it was really, really tough. I was very other: the youngest employee, the only minority, and one of only two women on a 25-person investment team. I was so intimidated and lonely and ashamed by my otherness that I spent every day feeling like an imposter and trying to hide anything true about myself. I checked my real self at the door each morning to be the Serious Adult Professional I thought I needed to be. And this persona was the embodiment of everything I thought I “should” be but never waswearing grey boxy pantsuits, never showing emotions or vulnerability, always saying yes, forgoing sleep and family and friends and vacations all in the name of her career. My Serious Adult Professional was disciplined and ambitious and devoted but also exhausting and miserable and robotic. My Serious Adult Professional was a shell of a person who sucked up all the energy I had for the real methe outgoing girl who loved to laugh and did not take herself too seriously and couldn’t care less about the endlessly menial tasks she toiled away at for sixteen hours a day. And trying to shrink myself into a box in this way was not only unsustainable and suffocating and unnecessary… it was also totally cowardly. Because being other—being me—is a privilege, no matter how lonely or daunting that may be at times. Because the bravest thing we can do is to own who we are and seek jobs (and, for the record, relationships and friendships and opportunities) where our real selves are truly valued.
  1. Let’s not simply keep our heads down, hoping that our work will speak for itself. This is a common “good Asian” myth. Our work will only speak when we do. Even for an extremely chatty extrovert like myself, there were countless times I kept my mouth shut during meetings because I was afraid of asking a stupid question or wasting people’s time or appearing like I didn’t know what I was doing. There were countless times I stayed quiet, only to have someone else say exactly what had been on my mind and then receive credit for speaking up. There were countless times I kept my head down, assuring myself that my bosses knew exactly how hard I was working and how utterly devoted I was—only to realize they were too busy themselves to even notice. To me, speaking up and advocating for myself always felt weird and unnatural and super arrogant. But now, I am learning that my questions and thoughts and achievements are worth voicing—that the smartest people are the ones who speak up, stand their ground, and ask questions about what they do not yet know. That so long as I work hard and think through problems critically, then I can earn the privilege of captivating other people’s time and attention. That I need to give myself permission to own the room, because no one else can or will ever do that for me.
  1. Figuring out what we do not want is also a crucial part of the journey. At some point in life, we will inevitably have a small still voice in our minds telling us: “Not it.” And this will feel stressful and isolating and confusing—like we trapped ourselves in a cage of our own making. That’s OK. Because “not it” is actually a blessing, a new birthplace. From “not it” is where we become. And why do I know this? Because every “not it” in my life was what propelled me forward to a different, truer path. “Not it” was always the first step in my journey towards me. “Not it” was the voice I heard after every all-nighter I spent hunched over the tax code as a corporate tax attorney, feeling as though my soul was being physically vacuumed out of my body. “Not it” was the voice I heard the night I got engaged, knowing the perfect-on-paper man sitting next to me was not the man I wanted but merely the man I thought I should want. “Not it” was the voice I woke up to every groggy morning heading over to that fancy Wall Street job, having to grit my teeth through the relentless demands of a toxic and fratty and isolating workplace. “Not it” has always led me to the only question we were born to keep asking: What now?
  1. “No” is a complete sentence. Use it—unapologetically. This is by far the hardest lesson to swallow for a people-pleaser like myself, but I have found it is absolutely necessary to practice and master. Drawing boundaries for ourselves never warrants an apology.
  1. Having empathy for others is an asset, not a weakness. Never forget the human impact of whatever it is we are doing. I really enjoy my current job as an employment lawyer: I love that my work revolves around people and their careers. I love that the field of employment law is constantly evolvingparticularly now in the COVID era, when we are dealing with unprecedented questions concerning remote work and the future of the gig economy. But if I could change one thing about my job (other than, of course, the relentless pressure to bill), it is this: there is not much room for empathy in law, and I think that’s a real shame. This past spring, for instance, when corporate clients were suddenly reeling from COVID and firing employees left and right, I hated the fact that such a huge chunk of my job required advising on how to execute one of the worst days in someone else’s career. And yet, when I spoke about how days like that weighed on me heavily, many of my best-intentioned and seasoned mentors told me not to worry, that I will eventually learn to become unphased by it all over time. But here’s the thing, though: I don’t want to become unphased by it all. I don’t want to become a better attorney at the expense of becoming a hardened human being. I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the actual human impact of whatever I am doing—even if, at times, that means I am left going to sleep at night questioning whether I am on the “right” side of what’s “right.” Because having empathy for others—regardless of who is paying the bill—is precisely what makes us better attorneys and effective advocates and good human beings. So let’s stay soft, regardless of the job, even if that means some days weigh more heavily on us than others. We may not always get to pick the client or the problem to solve on any given day, but mindfulness and empathy are absolutely necessary if we want a shot at doing any good in this world.  
  1. If there is an itch, scratch it. And then see where it goes. Following our curiosity, whatever it may be, could end up being a mistake we learn from… or it could end up being the very best thing we do. Either way, we will learn. Either way, we won’t know unless we try.
  1. There is no “perfect” job—and that’s OK. Sometimes, being an adult plainly sucks—and that’s true for every one of us. Building a long, meaningful career will inevitably come with moments of intense pressure and times where we feel in over our heads and evenings where we cry our eyes out after work and mornings where we would do just about anything to stay in bed. At some point, all of usno matter the jobwill inevitably deal with dreadful tasks or unfair office politics or demanding clients or temperamental bosses or unforgiving deadlines or plans gone awry. But let us never forget that these are mere blips on the radar, and these kinds of moments arrive for each and every one of us. Let’s learn to take it all in stride and trust that the sucky moments will, too, pass.
  1. We are all stronger than we know. We will all make mistakes and weather through some very tough rough patches in our lives. And when those painful moments inevitably come, let’s remember to be kind to ourselves. Let’s take however much time we need to pause and wallow and heal. And then… let’s get back up and try again. Because all of us are stronger and more resilient than any mistake or stroke of bad luck or crappy boss or hurtful situation. We didn’t get this far only to get this far.   
  1. Always dream big. It really is a privilege. All of us in AABANY have the privilege to ask ourselves what kind of life we want to shape—and being able to even ask this question is an honor in itself. It is a privilege that most of our immigrant parents and grandparents did not havethe very privilege they worked so hard to provide for us now. It is not childish to dream outrageously big dreams; in fact, exploring the boundless limits of our potential is the boldest thing we can do with our lives. For me, I have dreamt of becoming an attorney, a novelist, an astronaut, an entrepreneur, a marine biologist, a U.S. Senator, a law school professor, an Olympic athlete, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Shonda Rhimes, and Oprah. I still dream of becoming many of those things, and I hope to build onto this list of dreams for as long as I am alive. Because I want to live a life storied enough for dozens of different chapters and careers. I want to keep learning and reinventing myself and seeing where my curiosity leads me. I want to always remain hungry. We have the privilege to dream and create the lives we want, and it is up to us to steer ourselves toward whatever takes root in our hearts.

And this, to me, is the true formula for success.

Congratulations to 2020 NAPABA Award Winners

On September 3, 2020, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) announced its 2020 award winners.

AABANY congratulates the following:

Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award Recipients:

Glenn D. Magpantay, Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance

Mari Matsuda, Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii

The Honorable Rosa Peng Mroz, Judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court in the State of Arizona

L. Song Richardson, Dean and Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California

Eric Yamato, Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the University of Hawaii

Affiliate of the Year Award Recipient:

Filipino Bar Association of Northern California (FBANC)

APA-Owned Law Firm Award Recipient:

Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho

Law Firm Diversity Award Recipient:

Littler Mendelson P.C.

Best Under 40 Award Recipients:

Jasmeet Kaur Ahuja, Senior Associate at Hogan Lovells US LLP 

Kristin Asai, Partner at Holland & Knight LLP

Thy B. Bui, Partner at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP 

Vicki Chou, Of Counsel at Hueston Hennigan LLP 

Pankit Doshi, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP 

Benjamin H. Huh, Legal Counsel at Apple Inc. 

Sofia Jeong, Associate General Counsel of IP Legal at Facebook, Inc. 

Robin Jung, Senior Attorney of Litigation at Dykema Gossett LLP 

Naephil “Naf” Kwun, Partner at Lee Anav Chung White Kim Ruger & Richter LLP 

Erica Lai, Antitrust & Commercial Litigation Counsel at Cohen & Gresser LLP 

Bonnie Lau, Litigation Partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP

Rotsen “Chinny” Law, Attorney at The Ramos Law Firm 

Mark L. Legaspi, Associate General Counsel and Director of Corporate Strategy, M&A, Investments and Emerging Technologies at Intel Corporation 

Abigail Rivamonte Mesa, Chief of Staff at Office of Supervisor Matt Haney, District 6

Lisa Kim Anh Nguyen, Partner at Latham & Watkins LLP

Phi Nguyen, Litigation Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta 

Philip Nulud, Senior Counsel at Buchalter

Judge Rizza O’Connor, Chief Magistrate Judge at Magistrate Court, Toombs County, Lyons, Georgia 

Candice Wong, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General & Chief of Staff of U.S. Department of Justice – Criminal Division 

Maya Yamazaki, Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP 

Women’s Leadership Award Recipient:

Sandra Yamate, Chief Executive Officer at Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession

Military and Veteran Service Award Recipient:

Colonel Kay K. Wakatake, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps

Pro Bono Award Recipient:

Alice Hsu, Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Karen Kithuan Yau, Of Counsel at Kakalec Law LLP

AABANY congratulates its members who were honored by NAPABA:

Glenn Magpantay, Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award

Naf Kwun, Best Under 40 Award

Alice Hsu, Pro Bono Award

Karen Yau, Pro Bono Award

AABANY also congratulates Littler, an AABANY Silver Sponsor, on receiving the Law Firm Diversity Award.

All these award winners will be recognized during the month of October on NAPABA social media channels. Follow NAPABA’s Facebook and LinkedIn to hear the winners give their acceptance speeches and more!

AABANY Congratulates Chris Kwok on Publishing an Article in the New York Law Journal on Mediating Employment Disputes Ethically

The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates Issues Committee Chair, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair and Board Director Chris Kwok on his recent article published on September 1, 2020 in the New York Law Journal entitled “Mediating Employment Disputes Ethically: Ensuring Quality and Fairness in the #MeToo, #BLM, #COVID-19 Era.”

In the article, Mr. Kwok begins by exploring the value of mediation and the importance of mediators upholding ethical standards to ensure a just process in the #MeToo, #BLM, #COVID-19 era. Mr. Kwok then delves into the novel challenges that virtual negotiations bring, ranging from the issue of confidentiality and stability of internet connections to the ethics of avoiding categorization of damages as reparations for sexual harassment.

In 2005, the American Arbitration Association, American Bar Association, and Association for Conflict Resolution promulgated the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators that has since served as a central guide for mediators who encounter ethical conundrums. The article concludes by suggesting that the emergence of unprecedented technological and confidentiality concerns in a challenging time call for a potential revisitation of the Model Standards of Conduct and prompts readers to ponder the changing scope of ethical duties mediators need to take on.

To read the article, click here.

NYC Care is Now Available Citywide

Membership in NYC Care is now available to New Yorkers in each borough. NYC Care is a health care access program for people who are not eligible for or cannot afford health insurance. The program ensures all New Yorkers, regardless of their income or immigration status, have equal access to comprehensive, high-quality care.

NYC Care members can benefit from personalized, coordinated care and, most importantly, the confidence and safety that comes from belonging to a system that cares about their health and their future.

With NYC Care, you can:

  • Receive care at NYC H+H locations across the city.
  • Receive preventative care, mental health support, and substance abuse services. 
  • Talk to customer service representatives in your language. 
  • Receive 24 hour access to low-cost prescription medications. 
  • Get your first appointment in two weeks or less.

To enroll, call 646-NYC-CARE.

To learn more about NYC Care, visit nyccare.nyc.

Please join the effort to spread the word in your community about this important service through our multilingual fliers below (or click here for more resources): 

Congratulations to 2020-21 Elected NAPABA Officers and Directors

On September 10, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) announced its newly elected Officers and Directors for the 2020-21 NAPABA board of governors. Board members will be sworn into office on November 7 during the NAPABA Virtual Experience.

AABANY would like to extend congratulations to the following individuals:

Sid Kanazawa, President-Elect

Hogene Choi, Treasurer

Judy M. Lam, Secretary

Jim Goh, Director

Marty Lorenzo, Director,

Philip Nulud, Director

Brendan Wong, Director

To register for the NAPABA Virtual Experience where these individuals will be sworn in, see here.

Make an Impact – Mentor with Legal Outreach

About Legal Outreach:

Legal Outreach prepares youth from underserved communities in New York City to compete at high academic levels by using intensive legal and educational programs as tools for fostering vision, developing skills, enhancing confidence, and facilitating the pursuit of higher education. We use law to attract rising high school students to academic programs that inspire and motivate them to strive for academic success.

About the Mentoring Program:

Legal Outreach’s Mentoring Program allows attorneys and law school graduates to directly impact high school students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds by guiding them through high school and modeling what it means to be an attorney and to engage with the law – and allows attorneys to consider these questions, too!

Attorneys meet with their students once a month to hang out and talk about the issues and obstacles students are facing. Mentors, with materials provided by Legal Outreach, also help students through the Constitutional Law Debate Program. In Debate, students learn and apply Supreme Court precedent to issues directly affecting the country, such as qualified immunity, which weapons are protected under the Second Amendment, education rights for undocumented students, gerrymandering and voting rights, discrimination in housing developments, and more. 

Legal Outreach’s Mentoring Program is an integral tool for helping our students achieve academic success, and is a low cost, high reward volunteer activity. Mentoring a Legal Outreach student only takes around 4-6 hours per month and is a 3 year commitment (mentors work with students from their Sophomore year through Senior year). Mentors help students with their Constitutional Law Debates, guide them academically, and inspire them by providing one-on-one support throughout their high school careers and even after mentees matriculate to college. JD is required. Mentors can also receive 3 CLE Credits per reporting cycle.

“My mentor is very supportive of my accomplishments and hard work. He’s always willing to talk about any problems and to teach me anything new.” Legal Outreach Student

“I have recommended the program to numerous friends, I think Legal Outreach is a fantastic program and I am happy to be involved.” Legal Outreach Mentor

Apply Now at www.legaloutreach.org/mentor

Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the Mentoring Program will be implemented virtually during the 2020-21 academic year.

Mentor/Mentee Events Hosted by Legal Outreach

Sept. 29, 2020 6pm-8pm New Mentor Orientation
Oct. 8, 2020 6pm-8pm Meet mentees at Octoberfeast!
Nov. 13, 2020 6pm-9pm Debate 1
March 12, 2021 6pm-9pm Debate 2
End of March/early April 2021 Debate 3 (qualifying students)

Questions? Contact Marla Trinidad, Law-Related Education Coordinator, at LRE@legaloutreach.org.

2020 NAPABA Virtual Experience November 4-7, 2020 NAPABA Scholarship Program

We recognize that our members may be facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with Prudential, NAPABA will offer scholarships to waive the registration fee for the 2020 NAPABA Virtual Experience for our members who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Assistance: Scholarships will be awarded in the form of a discount code equal to the amount of your NAPABA Virtual Experience registration fee at the early bird rate.

Eligibility: You must be a NAPABA member and demonstrate financial need due to COVID-19 to receive an award. Become a member today to apply for the scholarship!

Scholarship Deadline: Submit an application by 5 pm ET, Monday, October 12.

For more information and to apply, click the button below:

APPLY NOW

The NAPABA Scholarship Program is generously supported by:

Prudential

NAPABA Statement on the Yale Affirmative Action Case

For Immediate Release: August 18, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director
Email: ppurandare@napaba.org

WASHINGTON—Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice asserted that Yale University had violated federal civil rights law against Asian American and white applicants by using race as a determinative factor in its undergraduate admissions process. NAPABA strongly disapproves of any form of racial discrimination, including in college admissions. The organization understands the importance of diversity in education, and that race is one of the many factors in a holistic admissions process as established by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“While we continue to review information on the Department of Justice’s findings to fully evaluate the Yale University case, diversity remains a critical and compelling interest for universities to achieve,” said Bonnie Lee Wolf, president of NAPABA. “NAPABA is in support of race-conscious standards as a part of a holistic admissions process. We also support continuing efforts by colleges and universities to improve their admissions processes, including their work to recognize and address implicit bias. Our support of these principles has included filing of amicus briefs in the seminal cases of Grutter v. Bollinger and Fisher v. University of Texas in support of the universities and the importance of diversity. NAPABA will closely monitor the alleged claims against Yale University.”

Two years ago, NAPABA supported the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts’ ruling that upheld the use of race conscious admissions in Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard. In 2015, NAPABA issued an organizational statement in support of Affirmative Action and that the policy is necessary to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in education.

NAPABA Organizational Statement: Coalition of Bar Associations of Color Urges State Bars to Enact Alternative Licensing Measures Amid COVID-19

For Immediate Release:
Date: August 19, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON, DC — The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) issued the following statement in response to several proposals calling for alternatives to the traditional in-person bar examination used to license new attorneys as a direct response to the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented extraordinary challenges to just about every aspect of how we conduct our lives. As lawyers, it is our duty to meet these extraordinary circumstances with grace and swiftness, and to adapt as necessary to ensure continued access to justice and protection of the rule of law. In this spirit, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color supports ABA Resolution 10G strongly urging all state bars to cancel in-person or potentially vulnerable online administrations of the bar exam and consider adopting alternative methods of licensing new attorneys until a safe and secure method of administering a bar exam is available. This will protect the future of the legal profession and ultimately, our society.

Protection of the public in the administration of justice should remain the top priority of state bars. However, during the ongoing pandemic, traditional methods of testing, like large in-person exams, pose tremendous health risks to test takers and those around them and in many instances would violate government-issued restrictions to large gatherings.

Although we commend the states that opted to cancel in-person examinations in favor of online proctored exams, this method has met significant challenges in its administration. These challenges have included fairness, privacy, and technology concerns with the most recent example being the Florida bar. In Florida, bar examinees were informed of the cancellation of the online exam two days before its scheduled date due to numerous issues with the online proctoring system. No official new date or method of testing has been offered. The Michigan online bar exam system crashed during the examination. The State of Indiana encountered similar technology issues when the program was being tested, and they changed to an open book exam allowing answers to be emailed. The current infrastructure for online testing, which presents significant security concerns and glitches, is simply not workable for an exam of this magnitude and import.

As leaders of the Bar Associations of Color we are particularly concerned with the disparate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of color and more specifically bar examinees of color. As noted in the report accompanying ABA Resolution 10G on this issue, a recent survey showed “a majority of bar applicants do not believe they have reliable internet access, and that white applicants are about 71 percent more likely to have such access when compared to black applicants.” The same survey noted that the majority of bar examinees “do not have access to a quiet space to take a remote bar examination, with white applicants again being substantially more likely to have access to a quiet place than an applicant of color.” People of color and non-traditional students, who have already faced and conquered institutional challenges to complete their legal education, will face additional barriers in the event of additional delays.

Further delays in licensing attorneys are unfair, placing the careers of thousands of attorneys in limbo. Instead, flexibility from state bars is of paramount importance. Adopting alternatives like open book examinations, extended CLE, a diploma privilege, or a Certified Legal Intern program that leads to a provisional license and then to full licensing within 3-6 months, is the most efficient way to adequately safeguard the futures of all bar examinees and the legal profession as a whole.

Additionally, the delays in testing have further exacerbated the stressful circumstances experienced by bar examinees. Graduates have been preparing since May for one of the most important examinations of their careers. To do so, they have sacrificed their income and time for an extended period. Many are facing severe financial difficulties, have no health insurance, and they are competing for jobs in one of toughest job markets in years. Further delays in licensing will disrupt employment plans and leave thousands of graduates with no way of supporting themselves or their families in a moment of global crisis.

Bar examinees have demonstrated their ardent commitment to the legal profession through their resiliency in the last months. The protection of the public in the administration of justice should be extended to bar examinees by decisive action from the state bars that they will serve in their long and successful careers. We call on state bars to consider the options set forth in ABA Resolution 10G that are most protective of bar examinees, their careers, their families, and the legal profession. Options include but are not limited to allowing diploma privileges, administration of remote open book examinations, and creation or expansion of certified legal intern programs leading directly to licensure, a form of diploma privilege.

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The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA).