Law Schools Reverse Fall Plans For In-Person Classes

Test Takers Raise Concerns Around In-Person Bar Exam

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the nation, test takers are raising concerns about the lack of safety when it comes to in-person bar exams.

Stephanie Francis Ward, of the ABA Journal, spoke to test takers about their experience with in-person bar exams amidst the pandemic. Many expressed concerns about the lack of public health measures during the administration of the exam.

BAR EXAM SURVEY

According to a bar exam survey of North Carolina graduates, anonymous test-takers reported concerns including proctors not wearing masks at all times during the exam, dirty public restrooms, and a lack of sanitization procedures for tables, pencils, or computer toggles.

The survey, which was created by student body heads, will be submitted to North Carolina lawmakers with the hopes of creating a bar exam oversight committee.

TEST TAKERS FEAR RETRIBUTION

Many test takers are holding back from criticizing the in-person bar exam openly out of fear of retribution.

Matt Stone, a July 2020 North Carolina bar applicant who graduated from the Campbell University law school in May, openly spoke out about the lack of continuous mask-wearing from proctors and IT personnel during testing day. Stone also says his fellow test takers fear consequences for speaking out about their experience.

“As the day went on, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” Stone tells the ABA Journal. “It has been so difficult to get much attention for what we went through in the time leading up to the exam, and even now many people are afraid to speak out because they worry about retribution, like character & fitness marks.”

CALL FOR ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS

Many have called on the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners to offer alternative solutions such as diploma privilege – which would allow law grads to practice the law under supervision without taking the bar.

Diploma privilege has grown in wide popularity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as an alternative solution to having law grads take the in-person bar exam.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, law grads argue that forcing grads to take the in-person exam is a public health hazard.

“The circumstances around COVID-19 have hardly improved,” according to the authors of the article. “Given the continued infection rate, potential second spike, and the non-availability of a vaccine, holding bar exams as usual—or even in September or October as some jurisdictions have suggested—means risking the lives of students, proctors, their family members and members of the public living in towns with exam sites.”

So far, four states have adopted diploma privilege for their grads. They include Louisiana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

Sources: ABA Journal, The Washington Post