Law Student Coaliations for Diploma Privilege Starting to Emerge In the World Post COVID-19

Law Student Coaliations for Diploma Privilege Starting to Emerge In the World Post COVID-19

The idea of diploma privilege isn’t new. In fact, its origins date all the way back to 1859, when the head of the law program at Hamilton College in New York, Theodore Dwight, first initiated it.

Dwight incentivized students by graduating them as officials lawyers in the state of New York upon graduation from law school. Soon thereafter, dozens of law schools in over 10 states began to follow Dwight’s footsteps graduating students with automatic bar admission. However, by 1875 in New York, the Association of Bar of New York had formed and abolished diploma privilege to replace it with the bar exam upon law school graduation. Soon, other states began to follow, leading to the creation of the National Conference of Bar examiners in 1931.

The bar exam continued to have a vice grip on law graduate students until the 21st century when the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. Students in many states weren’t allowed to take the bar exam, as test-taking conditions were unsafe, and couldn’t effectively follow COVID-19 protocols. Many states granted temporary diploma privileges to students, helping to bring the benefits of diploma privilege to light for the first time in over 100 years. According to the JURIST editorial board, “As in so many other respects, COVID-19 has not created a bar exam problem; it has simply laid bare one that has long existed.”

Missing the company of others and longing for a community presence, some law students created an organization called “United for Diploma Privilege.” Students appreciate the fairness that came with diploma privilege and collaborated with one another to form this organization, and many others like it to support diploma privilege.


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JURIST Editorial Board, The Diploma Privilege Manifesto, JURIST – Academic Commentary, July 9, 2020,

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