A former law student in Arizona who failed an online bar exam is asking the state supreme court to license him anyway, claiming software flaws kept him from passing the test.
The Oct. 26 petition by Jordan Evan Greenman said his screen going blank, and mouse and keyboard becoming disabled, during the July exam cost him time and content, contributing to a score that was five points below passing.
The software flaws led to a lost opportunity for Greenman, the petition said, “after three years of hard work at a top-25 law school, obtaining clerkships and externships, starting his own small business to pay for law school, and three months studying for the biggest exam of his life.”
The petition may prompt similar challenges from others among a small percentage of students who experienced serious software flaws while taking online exams across the U.S. during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This legal action will be closely watched,” said Aaron Taylor, executive director of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence. “It’s likely that others are already in the works.”
Frustrated test takers took to social media after each of the last three bar exams with often-emotional accounts of technical glitches they experienced during tests that were given online because the Covid-19 pandemic made in-person gatherings too risky.
ExamSoft, the company that provided sofware for the tests in 28 states and the District of Columbia, apologized for the glitches in August. The company faulted the process for coordinating and controlling computer memory and said about 1% of exam-takers required extra assistance because of the flaws.
According to Greenman, the software crashed during the first of two multistate performance tests. He said he got one out of six points on that portion of the test, worth 10% of the overall exam score, and that he tallied consistently higher on other sections of the exam.
Greenman is asking the Arizona Supreme Court to review the decision of its Committee on Examinations not to recommend him to be admitted to the bar based on the score.
Greenman’s attorney, Ilan Wurman, a professor with the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, said the situation has been “extraordinarily difficult” on his client. Wurman taught Greenman constitutional law during his first law school year.
“In this case, because he was just shy of passing, you can imagine the psychological harm this has had on him,” Wurman said.
The pool of online test takers that have situations similar to Greenman may be small. California bar officials found that while almost one in three July 2021 bar exam takers had experienced flaws with software memory utilization, just 2% had lost time or content.
The Association of Academic Support Educators in July asked state courts and examining boards to make appropriate scoring adjustments for examinees who were affected by glitches. At least a couple jurisdictions have done so.
“We laud the states that took actions like Delaware and Colorado, and hope to see California and others follow suit, even if retroactively,” said Marsha Griggs, a professor at Washburn University School of Law in Kansas, in a written statement.