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D.C. Again Sets Remote Bar Exam, With States Likely to Follow

Feb. 10, 2021, 6:40 PM

Washington D.C. will hold its July bar exam remotely, the third time in a row it has taken such a step, which other states are likely to follow.

The decision is “in light of continued pandemic conditions, to protect the health and safety of examinees, proctors, and court staff,” the D.C. Court of Appeals said in a Wednesday statement.

The trend toward remote taking of the twice-annual exams is picking up steam. More than 30 states and D.C. decided to hold this month’s tests remotely, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

States are trying to keep test takers and staff safe from Covid-19 while at the same time ensuring that the exams deliver on their purpose of certifying that newly licensed lawyers are at least minimally competent.

D.C. will accept applications from May 3 to 21 for the test, which will occur on July 27 and 28. The timing of applications will let people who fail the exam Feb. 23 and 24 retake it this summer.

While the largest U.S. states haven’t yet announced what they’ll do in July, nearly all of them delayed last summer’s tests to October—and in a first, decided to administer them remotely.

Still, a total of 23 states went ahead with in-person bar exams last July despite the pandemic. Most of those urged test takers to wear masks and practice social distancing.

As many as 15 states, including Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Montana, are holding their February tests in-person.

The remote exams held last year spurred a range of technical- and privacy-based complaints. A substantial percentage of those taking the remote New York bar exam last October, for example, reported technical problems. Months before, test takers in Indiana, Michigan, and Florida also reported such difficulties.

In California, the state sent 429 people “Chapter 6” notices that they were being investigated for possible rule breaking, such as having their eyes outside of their webcams’ view for too long a period of time. Yet in the end, just 47 test-takers were implicated.

The two largest state bar groups, in New York and California, have made only modest changes in advance of this month’s exams.

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

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

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