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Nevada Moves February Bar Exam Online, Citing Covid Concerns (1)

Jan. 6, 2022, 6:56 PMUpdated: Jan. 6, 2022, 8:09 PM

Nevada will offer its February bar exam online, becoming what appears to be the first state to ditch plans to force aspiring lawyers to take the test in-person in response to a spike in Covid-19 infections.

The state will now offer a remote option for its Feb. 22-23 test, in addition to a revised in-person option, according to a State Bar of Nevada notice issued last week.

The test will also be scaled down to state and local legal topics. It will not include the 200-multiple choice question Multistate Bar Examination, as the state has in previous tests, according to the notice.

The move marks the latest chapter in the continuing chaos for test takers and bar examiners caused by the pandemic. It comes as some law schools have reverted to remote classes and several major law firms have delayed office-return plans, citing rising infections caused by the omicron Covid-19 variant.

States across the country have returned to requiring test takers to sit for the bar exam in-person this year, including several that shifted to an online format early in the pandemic. Nevada appears to be the first state to move its February test back online.

The move came after Richard Trachok, the chair of the Nevada Board of Bar Examiners, and the Supreme Court of Nevada agreed that the rising number of Covid cases in the state needed to be addressed, State Bar of Nevada Admissions Director Dean Gould said in a written statement. “We were advised in late December that the Court wanted the February 2022 bar exam to be held remotely as a precautionary health measure,” he said.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, which provides bar exam licensing tests, announced in June that the materials for the February 2022 exam would be provided for “paper-based in-person” testing only—unless public health agencies prohibited in-person tests for specific jurisdictions.

Omicron Concerns

It’s not yet clear whether other states will join Nevada in shifting February tests back online.

The California Supreme Court on Oct. 20 said the decision to hold its test in person would be subject to restrictions that might be imposed by state or local public health authorities.

At the time, California Covid-19 cases had been trending down since a peak in mid-August. That trend suddenly reversed course in early December, when the numbers of those infected with the highly contagious omicron variant in California and around the country began to rise.

Several large-state bar examiner authorities have started to lay out a range of in-person testing guidelines, which have included mask mandates and vaccination requirements.

Nevada is one of 11 states that has not adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, which includes essay and legal knowledge tests—but in previous tests it has relied of the National Conference of Bar Examiners to provide the multiple-choice portion of that test.

The in-person test will be conducted at the offices of the State Bar of Nevada in Las Vegas, where it will adhere to social distancing requirements, according to the notice. The only applicants who will take the exam in-person will be those hand writing the exam, and others who have been granted certain accommodations that make an in-person exam necessary, Gould said.

In-person exams in the past have been held at larger venues in Las Vegas and Reno.

(New information and a quote from the admissions director of the State Bar of Nevada has been added.)

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