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California Sets In-Person Bar Exam as Covid-19 Cases Fall

Oct. 21, 2021, 4:00 PM

The California bar exam in February will be in person, marking the state’s first move away from online tests since Covid-19 surged last year.

The California Supreme Court’s order Wednesday didn’t mention Covid-19 and said the decision to hold the test in person is subject to any restrictions state or local public health authorities impose. California Covid-19 cases have been trending down since a recent peak in mid-August, according to a state data.

The court’s decision confirms expectations set in June when the National Conference of Bar Examiners said it would prepare only in-person exam materials for the tests next February. Thousands of test takers hit technical glitches during online bar exams held since October 2020 in most larger states.

Court spokesman Cathal Conneely said the court’s order speaks for itself and declined to comment further.

The first day of the Feb. 22-23 test will have a structure similar to last July’s examwith five one-hour essay questions and one 90-minute performance test on the first day. The second day will include the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination.

The court had decided to hold the July test remotely, citing “circumstances surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” according to a Feb. 26 order by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

The remote exams in late July were held in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Test takers around the country reported that their computers crashed, or their screens suddenly went blank, forcing them to restart their computers.

About 2% of California bar exam takers lost time or content from online technical glitches in July, the State Bar of California found.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners’ June announcement said bar exam materials for February 2022 test would be made available for paper-based, in-person tests only, unless public health authorities prohibit such tests because of Covid-19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at sskolnik@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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