Daily Coronavirus Update: NYSBA Works to Get Lawyers Back to Offices, Law Grads Allowed to Practice Temporarily

By Christian Nolan

April 29, 2020

Daily Coronavirus Update: NYSBA Works to Get Lawyers Back to Offices, Law Grads Allowed to Practice Temporarily


By Christian Nolan

The New York State Bar Association is working with representatives of law firms of every size to make recommendations on how to bring lawyers and staff back to their offices when Gov. Andrew Cuomo eases stay at home restrictions.

The association has appointed a Restarting the Economy Work Group to ensure that the views of its more than 70,000 members are heard.

“This is an enormously important issue to lawyers around the state and the working group has pledged to move quickly to give law firms guidance,” NYSBA President Henry M. Greenberg said. “Clients come to us because they need someone to listen carefully to their concerns and many times the best way to do that is at the office. Collaboration with the entire legal team is also easier and more effective when everyone is in the same place.”

The work group will be consulting with law firm managers, health authorities and labor experts to recommend the safest and most efficient way for law firms to reopen. The governor has determined that all businesses will need to submit reopening plans that allow employees to work at a distance from one another.

Many law firms and the court system are now operating virtually. New York allowed lawyers representing criminal defendants, health care providers, utilities and the local, state and federal governments more leeway in maintaining a physical presence during the coronavirus crisis.

The association is also providing training on the topic. A webinar, “Bringing Employees Back to the Office: Key Steps and Preparations for Law Firms” will be presented at noon on Friday, May 8. The webinar will include discussions of legal exposure, privacy issues, medical screenings and cleaning protocols.

Click here for a full listing of the members of the new working group.

Law Grads to Practice Temporarily

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has announced that all first-time takers of the bar examination, including both J.D. and LL.M. candidates irrespective of their graduation year, may receive temporary authorization to engage in the limited practice of law.

DiFiore’s order allows candidates employed in New York to work under the supervision of a qualified attorney who is in good standing for three or more years in the state of New York.

The temporary authorization program is intended to carry qualified candidates through their swearing-in date, so long as they pass their first bar exam no later than 2021 and promptly seek admission to the bar following the release of the exam results.

The program will supplement existing practice order programs that allow specified candidates to engage in the supervised practice of law, which will be unaffected by this temporary measure.

Prior to the rescheduling of the July bar exam in September, roughly a thousand third-year law students had signed a letter seeking an emergency diploma privilege that would grant a law license to each person graduating from an accredited law school in December 2019 or May 2020.

‘Rolling’ Bar Exam Applications

With the application period for the September bar exam starting on May 5, DiFiore has also announced that the applications will proceed on a rolling basis.

“Given the significant public health concerns and consequent restrictions that we face, candidates are encouraged to consider taking the Uniform Bar Examination at a later date or in other jurisdictions that may be better positioned to accommodate test-takers,” said DiFiore. “While we understand the considerable stress and uncertainty caused by these limitations, the health and safety of all participants must remain our top priority.”

DiFiore said further updates concerning registration for the September exam will be communicated by the Board of Law Examiners before the start of the application period.

Law Day Friday

In keeping with the May 1 Law Day tradition, the state court system has partnered with NYSBA and the state Attorney General, to celebrate a “virtual” Law Day online Friday morning.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, NYSBA President Hank Greenberg and state Attorney General Letitia James will all give speeches. This year’s Law Day theme is “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100.”

“The purpose of Law Day is to celebrate the rule of law and rededicate ourselves to upholding it,” said Greenberg. “The importance of that exercise has never been greater than at this moment, as the global pandemic upending our lives has placed unprecedented strain on the courts and other institutions upon which our freedom and prosperity depend.”

Stay tuned to NYSBA’s social media for a link to watch Friday morning’s virtual Law Day ceremony.

Latest NYSBA.ORG Coronavirus News

We are adding new content each day to our website related to the coronavirus public health emergency and its impact on the legal community.

With the ongoing pandemic, NYSBA has updated its Public Health Legal Manual. Click here to learn more and find out how you can get a free digital copy.

Today we also take a look at how the coronavirus highlights unequal access to legal services in rural communities.

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