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Omicron Variant Presses States to Consider Bar Exam Delays

Jan. 11, 2022, 7:46 PM

Bar exam developers are warning that some states may delay February’s tests for a month as the Covid-19 omicron variant spreads in the U.S.

Most states will likely hold the exam in person on Feb. 22-23, but “testing materials will be available for makeup dates in late March,” the National Conference of Bar Examiners said in a Monday statement.

Online tests aren’t an option because the software provider’s deadlines have passed, the examiners said. Test takers should watch email and websites in their state for any changes, they said.

The announcement shows Covid-19 infections may cause delays while states wrestle with when to hold the tests and what public health precautions to take in response to the fast-spreading omicron variant.

Most large states such as California and New York began offering online tests starting in July 2020. Then last June, the bar examiners said they would provide only “paper-based in-person” test materials for February, signaling that the online tests were over, unless public health authorities said otherwise.

Most states that stick with their February test dates will not have the option of conducting their tests remotely, because of deadlines set by the conference of bar examiner’s software vendor, ExamSoft.

Nevada was the first state to move its February test back online, via an announcement state bar authorities there made late in December. That state does not use the ExamSoft software.

California

California’s February test may be delayed and other options may be available for test takers who don’t want to sit near others indoors.

“We are exploring all of our options,” said Donna Hershkowitz, chief of programs for the California State Bar, said in a statement. “A public health order is required, along with a decision from the California Supreme Court, to change the exam modality.”

If applicants wish to withdraw from the exam, the State Bar will provide a full refund for requests made by Jan. 18, Hershkowitz said. Normally, the State Bar offers only partial refunds, or none to those who bow out “this late in the process,” she said.

In October, California’s top court said the decision to hold its test in person would be subject to restrictions that might be imposed by public health authorities.

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 at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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