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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    January 11, 2021

    Briefly

    Interesting facts, trends, tips, bits and bytes in the news.


    Out There

    Baby Bar Exam: Accommodations for Pregnant Test-takers?

    pregant woman working at desk

    You may have heard about Brianna Hill. She made national news after giving birth in the middle of the Illinois bar exam (she passed, by the way). In October, she was 45 minutes into the remote exam, at home, when her water broke.

    But fearing a disqualification, she kept going and finished both sections of day one before going to the hospital to give birth. The next day, she finished the final bar exam sections from her hospital bed.

    “Many are applauding Ms. Hill’s determination. But some recent law school graduates say her story highlights longstanding issues around when and how a person must take the bar exam – issues that have been amplified by the pandemic,” wrote Heather Murphy for the New York Times.

    Hill was supposed to take the bar exam in July, but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

    She had emailed bar exam officials for additional bathroom breaks, knowing she would be close to her due date, but her request was denied.

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    After COVID-19

    The Push to Expand Diploma Privilege Continues

    graduate in facemask

    For many years, Wisconsin was the only state with a diploma privilege that allows graduates of Wisconsin’s law schools to become licensed without taking the state’s bar exam.

    Then came COVID-19, and law students in many jurisdictions began demanding a temporary diploma privilege in their states, including out-of-state students subject to the Wisconsin bar exam.

    Oregon, Washington, Utah, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia granted temporary, emergency diploma privileges in 2020 but now will do bar exams online. At least 30 states also opted for online bar exams in 2020.

    A group called United for Diploma Privilege (UDP), with leadership in 33 states, is still pushing for expanded diploma privileges in all jurisdictions.

    When COVID-19 is behind us, Wisconsin will likely be the nation’s only diploma privilege state once again, though Karen Sloan at Law.com notes that “organizers of the diploma privilege movement say they will continue to push for changes to attorney licensure even after the pandemic subsides.”

    By the Numbers

    10,000

    – The number of state and federal court decisions (including tribal courts) that include the terms “COVID-19” or “coronavirus,” as of mid-December. Most of them are federal cases (9,427), and many of those involve prisoners seeking compassionate releases because of COVID-19.

    Many more cases will likely be decided in 2021. About 2,000 lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts that involve business insurance coverage, including several that were consolidated as multi-district litigation.

    This month 101 years ago, on Jan. 13, 1920, an Ohio court ruled in favor of Emma Frush, who lost her husband, Walter, to influenza after he was drafted for World War I. He died at Camp Sherman in Ohio.

    Walter’s life insurance policy excluded coverage “if the insured engaged in military or naval service in time of war.” But the court ruled the exclusion did not apply because Walter died of influenza, not as a result of military service.

    Good Idea

    New Year’s Resolutions: 12 Ideas to Thrive in 2021

    2021 target

    Law practice management company Clio published “12 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for Lawyers,” and they may get you thinking about how to make the most of 2021:

    1. Get organized.
    2. Take a client-centered approach to practicing law.
    3. Accept credit cards.
    4. Network more.
    5. Bring more of your practice on the go.
    6. Revamp your online reputation.
    7. Become more data-driven.
    8. Prepare for client intake before you meet your next client.
    9. Take better care of yourself.
    10. Manage your time more wisely.
    11. Attend events to invest in your firm’s future.
    12. Try a new tool to help your practice succeed.

    Tech Tip

    Tax Identity Theft: Get Your IRS Identity Protection PIN

    laptop with encryption

    Tax fraud can happen to anyone. If your Social Security number has been subject to a public data breach, fraudsters can use your number to file a fictitious tax return. The stolen return will be filled with wage and deduction information that will allow the phony filer to obtain the highest refund without tipping off the IRS.

    Starting in 2021, taxpayers have the ability, after first passing an identity verification process, to obtain an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). The IP PIN is a six-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number, according to the IRS.

    To get your IP PIN, you must first register your identity on IRS.gov. Your IP PIN will be valid for one year, and you must apply each year for a new PIN. If you are not able to validate your PIN with the online tool, or if you make $72,000 or less per year, you can file Form 15227 with the IRS.

    If your identity has been stolen in the past or if you want to take precautions to protect your tax identify in the future, consider obtaining an IP PIN from the IRS.

    Source: Christopher Shattuck, State Bar practice management advisor (Practice 411™).

    Quote

    “2020 forced us out of our comfort zones, likely for the better. The gaping holes and stark inequities within various systems we once held dear were laid bare. Our ‘normal’ was dysfunctional.”

    Emil Ovbiagele

    – Milwaukee attorney Emil Ovbiagele. Reflecting on 2020, Ovbiagele is ready for the new year.

    “I am not interested in going back to whatever ‘normal’ was because it wasn’t working for so many,” he said. “I hope in 2021, we don’t forget the lessons 2020 taught us. I hope we use our new-found resilience to continually up the ante.”

    Cite to 94. Wis. Law. 14-15 (January 2021).




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