DC Law Deans’ Statement In Response to 2022 DC Bar Exam

May 11, 2022

Dear Colleagues:

We understand that several law school deans from outside the Washington, DC area have written to Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the Court) asserting that the priority-registration process for the DC Bar – which prioritizes graduates of local law schools and was adopted by the Court and announced on May 2 – is unfair to graduates of non-local law schools.

As deans of DC-area law schools, we requested the registration procedure that the Court adopted. The District is home to a large and diverse collection of law schools: American, Catholic, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, and the University of the District of Columbia. Many graduates from our schools are long-term DC residents, and collectively our graduates end up working in a wide variety of legal jobs within the District. Many chose a DC law school specifically because they wanted to practice in the District. Yet, because this jurisdiction is a magnet for law graduates from other regions, last year’s limit on the number of seats meant that many local residents were unable to take the bar in the jurisdiction in which they live and plan to practice. As a result, graduates of DC-area law schools, including many of limited means, were forced to scramble to register for, prepare for, and travel to bar exams in jurisdictions where they did not live, did not study law, and never planned to practice, in order to use that score to waive into and become a member of the DC Bar. Others felt forced to wait until the February exam.

In light of those circumstances and the fact that anyone earning a minimum score of 266 on the UBE administered in any jurisdiction can immediately apply for admission to DC without obtaining admission elsewhere, we, as deans of DC-area law schools, asked the Court to consider adopting a rule similar to the one that the New York Board of Law Examiners implemented during the 2020 September cycle. After limiting the number of seats for the in-person exam, New York planned to give priority registration to applicants from one of the 15 law schools in New York State. This is the approach the DC Court of Appeals has adopted. (Ultimately New York, like other jurisdictions, moved to a virtual bar exam, rendering that policy moot.)

We recognize that this approach is at a cost to graduates from law schools in other jurisdictions, just as New York’s rule disadvantaged graduates from DC-area law schools. But the Court has had to make the difficult decision to limit the number of seats which of necessity adversely impacts many students. In light of the above considerations, we believe the Court’s approach is both fair and reasonable.

Roger A. Fairfax, Jr.
Dean and Professor of Law
American University Washington College of Law

Renée McDonald Hutchins (she/her)
Dean & Rauh Chair of Public Interest Law

Dayna Bowen Matthew
Dean and Harold H. Green Professor of Law
George Washington University Law School

Danielle Holley-Walker
Dean and Professor of Law
Howard University School of Law

Stephen C. Payne
Dean, Columbus School of Law
Knights of Columbus Professor of Law
The Catholic University of America

William M. Treanor
Dean and Executive Vice President
Paul Regis Dean Leadership Chair
Georgetown University Law Center