July 20, 2020

A July 20, 2020 salute to ASP

Sara J. Berman, Director of Academic and Bar Success, AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence
Academic and Bar Success


The bar exam news changes daily. As of this writing, eight days from now, by my count 17 states will administer the July bar exam in-person – two days of testing conducted in varying socially distanced manners. Some of those states offering an in-person exam are also offering other licensing pathways – temporary and/or permanent. Other states have postponed the July exam altogether, some moving it to September or October dates, some scheduling it as an in-person exam and others in an online format. Still other states have created alternative licensing procedures. Some have done both. There are a number of websites collecting and regularly updating this information including the NCBE but it is always best to also go to a particular jurisdiction’s website to be certain what its latest decisions are.

To those law school graduates who have been studying since May, we see you and we are with you. Studying for and taking the bar exam during the best of times is an enormous challenge; this summer you are veritable heroes. In upcoming posts, we will share resources and wisdom for you, and we will never stop supporting you.

In this post, though, we salute another group of heroes, the Academic Support faculty of our nation’s law schools. We see you, ASP, and we are with you.

ASP is already one of the most difficult jobs in legal education today. It is a monumental feat to prepare students with wildly varying skills and preparation levels under ordinary circumstances for exams that will occur on predictable dates and under predictable conditions. This summer’s exam has for months now been a moving target; and, in many ways and in many jurisdictions, it will remain an unknown for several more months.

For ASP faculty to just keep up with the changes takes hours of time daily. And, this professional community actively and collaboratively assists one another in the collective goal of helping the nation’s students. Robust listservs, emails, phone calls, blogs, social media, and webinars have been ablaze with information exchanges. ASPers, you are extraordinary to have “just” kept up and kept your students prepared.

And, we also know and see that this summer, our nation’s law graduates feel the impact, as we all do, of grappling with an historic pandemic and trauma from multiple, simultaneous crises including our handling or lack thereof of violence and brutality against racial minorities, financial upheavals, and sharp partisan divides, among other daily conflict. Thus, we know that this summer, you in ASP are not “just” helping your students navigate the steep learning curve of content and skills mastery required for success on the exam, but you are called on daily now to help them handle both “ordinary” and COVID 19-related physical and mental health issues, financial struggles, technical and connectivity challenges, family and housing pressures, and so much more.

We see you working round the clock. Most of you already work year-round, with summer often being the busiest and most stressful part of the year. But, this summer, you will not even get the brief “break” you normally get –often just a week to recharge just after the July bar and before Orientation planning begins for the fall semester. No, this year will involve continuous prepping as you see graduates through the September and October bar exams, while prepping new online and/or hybrid courses, workshops, and programming for the fall.

We see that you will shortly be welcoming 1Ls, helping at-risk 2Ls, counseling rising 3Ls –all while on high alert for last minute changes so that you can best assist your 2020 graduates as they wind their way through the national licensing maze –and all without a break.

We cannot give the nation’s ASP faculty a break, but we at AccessLex can acknowledge you and say how much we appreciate you. And we encourage everyone in law schools across the country – students, faculty, staff, and administrators alike– to take a moment to recognize and thank those working tirelessly in ASP at your school, and to join us as we salute these too often unseen yet always vital legal educators. The success of today’s law students is essential as we work together to see our nation flourish tomorrow, and to continue building a more just and equitable future.