Bar Exam

California bar exam will be postponed and administered online

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Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the California bar exam is postponed from July until Sept. 9 and 10, and the state supreme court wants the bar to be online with remote or electronic proctoring.

“The state bar shall work with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to facilitate the online administration of the September 2020 Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) or some variation thereof,” the court wrote in an April 27 letter to the state bar’s board of trustees.

An April 15 letter from the State Bar of California’s board of trustees suggested various options for the July bar exam. What the court adopted was the board’s preferred option. Another scenario was canceling the July bar exam entirely, with the next administration being in February 2021. The board suggested provisional certification with that option, where candidates could work with supervision from a licensed California lawyer.

The court will continue to explore provisional certification, “and other options as circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic develop or change,” the state bar wrote in an April 27 press release.

A work plan for the bar exam must be submitted to the court no later than May 11. Besides the state bar’s board of trustees, the California Supreme Court’s decision took into consideration public comment, as well as letters from California law school deans, faculty, graduating students and repeat test-takers.

“These adjustments recognize and will advance the manifest public interest in maintaining access to justice through competent and qualified legal services,” according to the letter.

Judith Gundersen, president of the NCBE, told the ABA Journal in an email that the organization is evaluating the feasibility of securely and fairly administering an online bar exam. Besides California, she mentioned Massachusetts, which announced last week that if the COVID-19 pandemic prevents a bar exam from being safely administered in person, its board of bar examiners will offer an online test.

“The NCBE is not working directly or exclusively with Massachusetts, California or any other states in this endeavor. We are, however, exploring options to assist all jurisdictions, including California, in fulfilling their duties to protect the public through their bar admissions processes,” Gundersen wrote.

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