When coronavirus hit in 2020, the South Dakota State Bar declined to give bar exam-takers full safety protocols or online options to prevent the spread of covid-19. Young legal guns seeking to fulfill their aspirations while protecting their respiration had two choices: come take the bar exam in person, or sit out from lawyering until the pandemic is done.
Representative Mary Fitzgerald (R-31/Spearfish) has a solution for that problem: do away with the bar exam for USD Law grads!
House Bill 1073 would grant “diploma privilege” to graduates of the University of South Dakota law school. USD Law grads seeking admittance to the South Dakota Bar would still have to be residents of the state, and they would still have to submit “satisfactory evidence” that they are at least 18 years old and are persons of “good moral character.” Show your USD Law diploma and evidence of age and good character (in Pierre, a voter registration card marked “R” will do), and you can skip the bar exam and go straight to lawyering.
HB 1073 does not address this topic, but one would hope that exempting successful USD Law students from the bar exam would also exempt them from the $400/month bar exam prep course fee that the Regents tacked onto USD Law school costs in 2017.
Four states and D.C. enacted temporary diploma privilege for law school graduates in response to the coronavirus pandemic. By the end of 2020, all five jurisdictions had put together plans to return to bar exam requirements and offer online testing options. Wisconsin is now the only state that offers diploma privilege.