The Illinois Supreme Court has modified its Rule 711 rules to allow some recent law graduates to practice under attorney supervision at private and non-profit practices.

The temporary provision issued Thursday comes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the postponement of the July Illinois Bar Exam to September.

“The Court understands the plight of recent law graduates and we want to provide an effective transition to them becoming practicing lawyers in these unprecedented times,” Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke wrote in a release announcing the rule change. “We appreciate the assistance provided by the law school deans and the Illinois State Bar Association in amending this rule to offer a measure of relief while also expanding access to justice and safeguarding the public.”

Rule 711 has long allowed law students and graduates to do legal work for legal aid clinics and public-sector law offices. The amendment, section G of the rule, expands the eligibility for people who have graduated law school since December 2019, as well as for J.D.-earners who have been serving as judicial law clerks since graduating.

Only those who have never taken a bar exam before are eligible.

The added criteria allows work for “a private law office or other legal department or organization with one or more attorneys, under the supervision of a licensed attorney” meeting certain requirements.

Among them: The supervising attorneys need at least five years’ experience as a licensed attorney and must have at least two years of good standing with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, with no disciplinary proceedings pending.

The supervising attorneys must also cover the 711(g) graduate under a malpractice insurance policy and cannot supervise more than two recent grads at a time.

Once those grads get results from the bar exam, they’ll lose eligibility. And the entire 711(g) provision will end “no later than November 4, 2021.” That date, a Thursday, aligns with the early-November date the high court traditionally schedules its attorney swearing-in ceremonies.

How grads can apply

After getting a job offer from an eligible organization, recent graduates and their supervisors-to-be must fill out a four-page 711(g) form available on the Illinois Supreme Court website.

The application requires a sign-off by the dean of each applicant’s law school verifying the graduate’s character and qualifications.

Within 60 days of starting 711(g) work, the graduates must complete a basic skills course for Minimum Continuing Legal Education, and in each 90-day period after that they must log three more MCLE credit hours.

The high court credited Illinois’ law school deans for working with the judiciary to shape and implement the change.

The court’s press release quoted UIC John Marshall Law School Dean Darby Dickerson who explained the rule’s significance.

“Our students are facing historic challenges, and this amendment will allow many of them to survive financially, continue their professional development, and help many citizens who need legal representation during these challenging times,” Dickerson said.