Florida's Supreme Court is offering some temporary relief for aspiring lawyers who were unable to take the state's bar exam this summer, after the exam's administrators were unable to provide a test due to the ongoing pandemic.
Monday was Allison Maldari’s first day on the job at her new law firm, but she’s in a bit of bind since she hasn’t been able to take the test to get her law license.
"I moved here in May, to Southeast Florida, so that means I have to take the Florida Bar exam,” Maldari said.
Allison came from Virginia, where she had a license, but now she, and 3,000 other recent law school graduates, are coping with the delays in taking the all important test.
The Florida Supreme Court and the Board of Bar Examiners that administers the test cancelled the July in-person exam due to the rise in COVID cases, then, just 48 hours before the online test last week, computer troubles cancelled the exam once again.
“The economic situation is challenging,” says FIU College of Law Dean Antony Page.
“I think it's very unfortunate that our graduates, and not just our graduates, but all the Bar takers, have to wait until October and there remains all this uncertainty," Page said. "I know that If I had to go through this, my head would be exploding right now."
Allison’s boss, Michael Freedland with the Broward firm of Freedland, Harwin, and Valori, said the firm would work around the delay.
Some applicants asked the Florida Supreme Court to give them the ability to work for 6 months so they can earn a living while they are waiting.
The high court Monday afternoon announced a program that will open the door for those waiting to be supervised by a licensed attorney until the spring of 2021, giving applicants some relief.
“I think it's critical that we make sure that any person who is provided a license to practice law in the state of Florida is qualified to provide the services," Freedland said. "If the Supreme Court and The Florida Bar thinks it's okay to do that without an exam, and what ever measure they will put in place to safeguard the process, I absolutely trust them to do the right thing."
Charles Canady, Florida’s Supreme Court Chief Justice posted a video on the court’s website saying, “We acknowledge and accept the criticism that has been directed at the court and the Board of Bar examiners. Our inability to offer the bar exam in August was a failure. We apologize for that failure.“
Canady says there will be an October test.
"It just will require more studying," Allison said. "Instead of running a marathon of 26 miles, we are going to have to run a few more miles to get us to October."
Florida International University has a go fund me page to help the graduates who aren’t able to make ends meet because of the trouble. Even with the relief granted by the Florida Supreme Court Monday, the maddening preparation for the exam continues - in some sessions, 4 out of 10 don’t pass.