By Annie Sweeney and Bonnie Miller Rubin
By the time she sits for the Illinois state bar exam in February, Kristin Pagano will have spent more than $1,200 registering for the test and will have studied eight hours a day for months to commit to memory the case law and legal rules on everything from taxes to criminal procedure.
The 27-year-old, who lives in the north suburbs, will also be a brand-new mother to a baby girl, whom she plans to breast-feed.
Knowing how stressful the make-or-break bar exam is, Pagano, due to give birth in January, sought permission this month from the board that administers the test to stop the clock for the 20- to 30-minute breaks she thinks she will need to pump breast milk for her daughter during the three-hour sessions.
Pagano wasn’t seeking more time — but rather to be assured she wouldn’t lose the time she needs to extract the milk. But the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar has so far denied Pagano’s request, prompting the attorney, who is licensed in California, to pen a four-page letter, arguing the board should reconsider.
In the letter, Pagano called the board’s decision to require that she and other nursing mothers leave the exam room to pump without additional testing time “impractical, unfair and discriminatory.” She argued that it runs counter to federal and state efforts to protect the rights of breast-feeding mothers.
“It’s discouraging,” Pagano said of the initial denial. “Because it forces women in my situation to either put off your career or sit and take this exam and sacrifice your health and comfort.”
The board, which considers a wide range of accommodations for test-takers, has agreed to review Pagano’s case, and a decision could come as early as this week.
Debate surrounding breast-feeding has surfaced on the Instagram accounts of celebrities including model Gisele Bundchen and actress Alyssa Milano, as well as in reaction to a May incident at the National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago, where an exhibitor was escorted out because of her infant, whom she had breast-fed.