Bar Exam

While NCBE sticks with in-person February bar exam, one state supreme court greenlights planning for future alternatives

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There will be no remote offerings from the National Conference of Bar Examiners for the February bar exam, and in the event that a jurisdiction prohibits large gatherings, makeup dates for an in-person test will be offered in late March, the organization announced Monday.

“Due to firm deadlines set by ExamSoft, remote testing using NCBE exam materials is no longer an option for the February exam dates,” according to a press release.

A spokesperson for ExamSoft, which provides software for the bar exam, told the ABA Journal in an email that the company has “continually maintained and communicated a timeline with clear milestone requirements to allow for a remote bar exam administration.”

In June, the NCBE said it would return to in-person bar exams starting with the February 2022 test. The announcement followed various problems with remote bar exams.

So far, one jurisdiction, Nevada, is offering its own remote exam for February, according to the NCBE website. The State Bar of Nevada will have seven essay questions and two performance tests, but no multiple choice questions, according to the state bar’s website.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of a plan to support two alternatives to attorney licensure, involving experiential learning and supervised practice, in addition to its current use of the Uniform Bar Examination. Also, the state supreme court encouraged the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners to develop an implementation plan for the alternatives, which it will review in six months. The proposal was submitted to the court in June.

“If the court doesn’t like it, we will go back to the drawing board. We’re going to break a lot of eggs to make this omelet,” Troy Wood, regulatory counsel for the Oregon State Bar, told the Journal.

The experiential learning piece would provide law students with two years of specific training, including legal writing, research and issue spotting. Comparisons have been made to the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, which when completed allows state bar admission with no exam.

For licensure through supervised practice, the Oregon Supreme Court’s Alternative to the Bar Exam Task Force suggests making it available to in-state and out-of-state graduates of ABA-accredited law schools.

During a public meeting on the matter, some justices expressed concern about whether the alternatives had support from the Oregon legal community. Jo Perini-Abbott, chair of the task force, says many attorneys who disliked the idea of alternative licensure, including herself, now support it.

“We’re saying to really put meat on the bones, we want the court at a minimum to say, ‘If we like what it looks like, we’re going to approve it.’ Without that signal from the court, it would be very challenging to get law school buy-in,” says Perini-Abbott, an attorney at the Angeli Law Group in Portland, Oregon.

Another task force member, Brian Gallini, is the dean of the Willamette University College of Law.

“In terms of scalability, I want to emphasize we are ready to go,” he says. “This will require a shift in how we deliver curriculum and how we serve students.”

See also: “Jurisdictions are switching back to in-person bar exam starting in February”

Updated at Jan. 11 at 6:37 p.m. to add comment from ExamSoft and information about the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision.

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