This is a very tough moment. The last semester of law school is supposed to be filled with making your last memories as a student. Instead, you are in your home, away from your friends and mentors. You won’t be able to have the in-person graduation ceremony this May that you and your loved ones have been looking forward to. Now, New York has postponed the July bar exam, and other states are likely to follow suit. Anxiety about finding jobs is at an all-time high as legal service providers, government agencies, and law firms are all working remotely. Things feel bleak, I know.
This juncture is unlike anything we have ever faced as a country, and I am not going to pretend that I fully understand what you are going through, or that I have all of the answers. All I can say is that I really do believe it will get better. Having graduated law school in 2009 during the last recession, and having worked with law students full-time for nearly a decade, I can tell you that things do work out. Many times, though, it takes more time and resources than originally anticipated. I have seen students in all manner of devastating situations figure it out (with help and support), and go on to have their dream careers.
The Director of Financial Aid at CUNY Law School, Dr. Angela Joseph, has shared some helpful resources with our students regarding the federal stimulus package and Financial Aid payments, which I am including here:
Now is the time to figure out who is in your support network and how you can get help. As a Law School, we will be working hard to find ways to get you resources, but I know it won’t be enough to help everyone meet all of their needs until they find permanent employment. The time has come to shift your thinking to more long-term planning. The good news is that in the long game, things will look much better.
After we are out of this immediate crisis, there will be even more unmet legal needs than there are today. The pandemic has exacerbated inequality and has hit already vulnerable communities the hardest. The work is waiting for you. There will be resources devoted to it.
This situation is not yours alone to fix. The legal community needs to rally around you in this moment. And, so this message is as much to you as it is a call of action to my colleagues in the legal world.
Law schools need to offer you continued support to finish your semester, and get you through a bar exam, whenever it may be.
Legal employers need to step up and change their hiring practices now so that you can have jobs that will allow you to take a bar exam in the fall.
Lawyers need to donate money right now to help you stay afloat during this time of uncertainty.
Bar examiners need to pause the charade that the bar exam is the best method of determining whether someone is competent to practice law, and enact diploma privilege immediately, so that we can get you on the front lines of legal services as soon as law school ends in May.
If I were standing before you today (and I wish I were), I would leave you with this thought: Things are not as you expected them right now, but that does not mean that your dream of becoming a lawyer will not come true. All of us have had to shift our thinking and planning because of this previously unimaginable crisis. But we need you in the legal profession now more than ever. I know I speak for law professors and lawyers everywhere when I say that while the next several months won’t be easy, we have your back and we are with you. We will get through this together.