Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that law schools provide reasonable accommodations to those students having disabilities under the Act. Accommodating students during the examination period, however, has proved controversial in law school environments predominantly characterized by fierce competition and pressure among its students. With starting salaries for new associates as high as $145,000, plus other bonuses for federal clerkship experience or other specialization, one can understand why. It should be a given that the ADA serves an admirable and necessary purpose in the law. However, are exam accommodations for some students fair when the very assessment of professional ability is predicated on equality through anonymity during testing procedures?
Under the ADA, a person is disabled if he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Learning, reading, and working all qualify as major life activities and are, therefore, covered under the Act. Controversy, however, surrounds interpretation of the substantial limitation requirement. For example, the Federal Circuit Courts are split on whether Title I, which controls employment discrimination, should also apply in determining whether a law student is substantially limited in his or her ability to function in law school.
Assuming that the student is disabled and qualifies for testing accommodations, should his or her grades be represented to employers as having taken exams similarly situated to all other students? As noted earlier, competition among law students is fierce and jobs are limited. Do legal employers have an interest in knowing whether a potential job applicant took his examinations under extended time? Should they care? Is such anonymity, despite extended time, fair to other law students trying to get jobs as associates? Are these accommodations legal under the Americans With Disabilities Act?
This Note analyzes the issues that arise when ADA student accommodations are provided in post-graduate institutions, focusing specifically on law school. Part II of this Note discusses the relevant history and caselaw that has grown around interpretation of the Act, and the facts surrounding its effects and occurrence in law schools. Furthermore, Part III compares the various judicial standards in determining whether accommodations should be granted to student petitioners, or stated alternatively, whether the Court will apply Title I or Title III of the Act to the student petitioner’s claim. Part III goes on to discuss the other various interests affected when testing accommodations are granted, such as the employer’s interest during the hiring process and whether disclosure of testing modifications should be made by the law school. . . .