Harvard Law Grad With ‘Cognitive Impairments’ Sues After Failing Bar Exam Twice

Blake Neff | Reporter

A graduate of Harvard Law School is suing New York’s bar examination board, claiming a promising legal career was derailed because she wasn’t given enough special treatment on the bar exam.

Tamara Wyche claims that ever since sustaining a head injury in an ATV accident in 2009, she has suffered from a host of cognitive problems that seem as though they would make it very difficult to be an effective lawyer. Among her alleged disabilities are a panic disorder, a reading disorder, memory problems, difficulty concentrating for extended periods, and a cognitive impairment that makes her struggle with complex abstract problems. Because of her various impairments, along with a major spell of depression, Wyche took five years to complete law school.

Despite her troubles with reading, thinking, and remembering, Wyche says she would have had an excellent legal career if she’d simply received proper accommodations from the New York State Board of Bar Examiners the first two times she sat for the New York bar exam. Wyche said she should have received 50 percent more time on the exam, her own private testing room, and special untimed breaks during the exam itself in order to compensate for her disabilities. Wyche said she received all of these accommodations during her time at Harvard, as well as a special exemption from being cold-called in class (a major component of Harvard’s legal education).

Instead, the first time she took the test, in July 2013,Wyche only received a smaller testing room (which still had other test-takers in it) and untimed breaks, without being given extra exam time. She failed, in part because of a panic attack she says she suffered during the exam. On her second attempt in July 2014, Wyche was given extra time and a smaller room, but no special untimed breaks. She failed again. Wyche only managed to pass the bar on her third attempt, during which she was given double time. (RELATED: Harvard May Have Investigated Conservative Students)

Because she failed the bar twice, Wyche says she lost a job at a major law firm where the starting salary was $160,000 per year. She has also been unable to find work at similar firms since passing the bar, she says, because her lack of bar passage means she has no experience performing serious legal work. Instead, she has been stuck working a series of less lucrative temporary jobs, with no signs of improvement in the foreseeable future.

Wyche says that the bar examination board’s actions violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and have caused her tremendous harm. She demands unspecified compensatory damages, and also wants her two failed bar takings purged from official records.

“Tamara Wyche is an individual with a disability,” the lawsuit says. “Her cognitive impairments, panic disorder, reading disorder, amnesic disorder, depression, and anxiety, constitute impairments that substantially limit the major life activities of learning, reading, concentrating, test-taking, and remembering.”

Despite professional legal work involving a great deal of learning, reading, concentrating, and remembering, Wyche says only the bar exam board’s gross discrimination stopped her from being a “star associate” in the legal world.

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