Bar Exam

California announces online October bar exam, lowered cut score and supervised practice

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California will have an online multiple-choice question bar exam in October, the state supreme court announced Thursday.

In a July 16 letter to Alan K. Steinbrecher, chair of the State Bar of California’s board of trustees, the court directs the bar to work with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to administer an online version of the Multistate Bar Exam.

The communication also announces that the court lowered the bar exam cut score from 1439 to 1390, following various requests and reports. This follows a 2017 state supreme court decision that it would not lower the cut score.

Chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is acknowledged in the letter.

“The court understands that many law school graduates are being substantially affected by the resulting disruption. Some graduates have lost job offers. Many are about to lose health insurance, cannot find a job to pay bills, or are in fear of deportation if they cannot enter the bar in time to retain job offers. Many more have student loan payments that become due in mid-November, but without a law license and the ability to work, they fear going into default,” the court wrote.

Various groups asked the California Supreme Court to grant diploma privilege. That’s not feasible, the court wrote, because the state has law schools without ABA accreditation.

“If California were to adopt diploma-privilege criteria used by other states, graduates of nearly four dozen California law schools would not meet those criteria and would be excluded,” the letter states.

The court also announced a temporary supervised provisional licensure program in the letter. It will be available to 2020 graduates of California law schools and some out-of-state graduates.

The California news follows several others bar exam cancellations this week, in New York, Tennessee, Louisiana and New Jersey. The American Bar Association’s Law Student Division is compiling a list of bar exam information by state, which can be seen here.

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