From Law School to Lawyer in the Age of COVID-19

by Law Week Contributor

By Bobby Dishell
MOYE WHITE

As I reflect on the past six months, I feel that I grew both personally and professionally while navigating the uncertainty of COVID-19. At the beginning of 2020, I was set to get married at the end of March, graduate from law school in early May, take the bar exam at the end of July and start working full time at Moye White in late August. Little did I — or the rest of the world — know what was in store for us. All of those exciting life milestones still happened, but the road there was a bit different than I anticipated.

FINISHING LAW SCHOOL AND GRADUATION

On March 11, I received communication that the University of Colorado Law School would be transitioning to remote instruction, and in-person graduation was in jeopardy. By March 16, professors and students alike were expected to be fluent in Zoom. March 16 came and went, and while everyone tried their best, it was clear that Zoom could not replace in-person instruction.

Zoom class was not unlike many initial remote meetings. A bit awkward and full of “Sorry, I forgot I was on mute!” Just like in-person learning, some instruction was better than others when we were remote. In addition to figuring out how to be successful in our new environment, my classmates and I had to navigate a string of uncertainty. What will final exams look like? Were we really going to graduate on Zoom? Is there even going to be a bar exam? There was lots of speculation on what was to come.

I want to emphasize that I am an incredibly fortunate graduate. I was able to attend Zoom classes because I had stable internet and space at home to work. I was not trying to secure a job, and my postgraduate employment offer remained unchanged. Many of my peers lost their job offers or are trying to find other work because their legal jobs now don’t start until 2021.

As final exams approached, we learned our courses would be pass/fail and final assignments administered remotely. This relieved a lot of pressure. However, I also felt for my peers who worked to earn higher marks for their last semester. In the end, pass/fail grading was the most equitable decision CU Law could have made. So, unceremoniously, I turned in my last assignments and one final exam. With the press of a button, law school was over.

Then came graduation, without the pomp and circumstance. No regalia, no stage, no walk from the law school to Macky Auditorium as many before us had done. While CU tried its best, our livestream graduation lagged, loved ones missed a milestone, and many lacked closure on this chapter. There was no time to grieve the loss. We had to move on. Bar prep was around the corner.

THE BAR EXAM

After taking a week off, I began to prepare for the bar. I continued working part time at Moye White while I studied. The team of attorneys and staff could not have been more supportive and helpful. After finishing the school year in a remote environment, I transitioned to remote bar preparations.

New information on COVID-19 and how other jurisdictions were adapting was released on almost a daily basis. I religiously read about the disease, knowing I had an in-person exam on the horizon. Many signed letters, made statements, and worked to illustrate the choice the class of 2020 and others had to make – push taking the exam to February and be able to practice in a limited capacity under supervision, or take the exam and risk contracting COVID-19 after spending approximately 20 hours in an enclosed space over the course of two days. I chose to sit for the exam.

On exam day, I checked in at 7 a.m., someone took my temperature, and I lined up outside, waiting to check in for the day. In many ways, it was nice to be back on campus. The environment and people were familiar. Unfamiliar were the precautions and protocols we had to follow. We wore masks throughout the examination period, you could only drink water that you brought with you, bathrooms were closely monitored to ensure the maximum number of people allowed was not exceeded, and we were somewhat spaced out in our testing rooms. And, after two days, we emerged like those before us – unsure if we’d passed and still unable to explain the rule against perpetuities.

TRANSITIONING TO LAW CLERK

I took the rest of the week off and then began working full time as a Law Clerk in the Real Estate Section at Moye White on August 3. In many ways, I picked up where we left off. In other ways, starting a job in a remote environment is odd. Again, I was lucky. I had the privilege to get to know and work with my peers at Moye White prior to the pandemic. I’m encouraged by how well our team has transitioned and adapted to the new normal.

It will be an honor to become a member of the legal community, should my bar results be positive. While the last six months have been unorthodox and presented new challenges, I know that the future is bright, and I am proud to have gone through this process with the class of 2020.

— Bobby Dishell is currently serving as a law clerk at Moye White as he awaits the results of his Colorado Bar Exam. He can be reached at 303-291-1531 or [email protected].

 

This article appears in the Sept. 7 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles in that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.