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D.C. Appeals Court to Offer Online Bar Exam in Early October

June 8, 2020, 6:06 PM

The District of Columbia’s next bar exam will be a pared-down, online-only test administered October 5 and 6, because both Covid-19 and the “overwhelming demand for seats” made an in-person test increasingly untenable.

This is D.C.'s second bar exam delay. The test had initially been scheduled for late July but then was moved to September for public health reasons.

The lingering and deadly coronavirus has forced states across the country to reconsider their bar exam options. This includes determining when exams will take place, whether they’ll be offered online for the first time, and even, in some states, like in New York, whether graduates of law schools in a given state will get seating preferences for exams.

D.C. will join Michigan and Indiana in offering the bar exam online. Nevada also announced that it will offer an online, open-book exam next month.

To make the decision to go remote, D.C. court officials consulted with local law school deans, the D.C. Bar, and law students about the need to offer its exam “to more people than we thought we could safely test in a ‘bricks and mortar’ facility,” said Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby in a statement.

“We did a lot of research about ways to ensure that a remote exam would still be proctored and fair, so that we could be sure that our bar’s standards would remain as stringent as ever,” she said.

The exam will be open to anyone qualified under D.C. Court of Appeals rules, according to the statement, including repeat test-takers.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners recently announced that its October online test should be seen as an “emergency remote testing option” for local admissions, should administering the in-person bar exam not be possible during the crisis.

Because the online exam will be abbreviated compared with the standard in-person bar exam, scores for the remote test cannot be equated to scores from the full-length bar exam, the NCBE states.

“Each jurisdiction will decide whether local or state health and safety restrictions prohibit it from administering the bar exam and will also determine, as is the current practice, its own eligibility guidelines for who may take the remote test,” the NCBE states.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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