With the Coronavirus pandemic has come a sweeping flood of declared state emergencies and concern about large gatherings. One of the key concerns by State Bars at this time is the health and safety of both test takers and administrators during the July 2020 Bar Exam.
At this time, it is not clear when the United States will see things getting back to normal. Rumors say everything from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months. The State Bars cannot predict whether it will be safe to take the exam in July or not.
There are two core problems with offering the bar exam in July at this point.
The first is of course the aforementioned issue with large gatherings of any type.
Most state governments are recommending a plan of self-isolation until the situation is under control. Some have outlawed large gatherings altogether. States (e.g. North Dakota) with smaller bar exams have less concern, but larger states (e.g. California) are quite worried.
The second issue has to do with the UBE. At this point, all but 16 states have moved to the UBE and are thus reliant on the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to provide exam materials and offer grading. They are currently in a state of indecision on how to move forward until the NCBE announces whether they will host the exam or not.
Arizona for example has stated they intend to proceed with the July dates for the exam. However, they noted this choice depends on the NCBE offering the exam materials at that time.
“Enough states must offer the exam in July to prompt the National Conference of Bar Examiners (“NCBE”) to supply the test materials and grade the exams. The NCBE will not do so unless a sufficient number of examinees nationwide take the test”Arizona Supreme Court
For those states that are UBE and are waiting on the NCBE to make it’s final decision, the NCBE has announced it will make its final decision about whether to offer the exam in July on or by May 5, 2020 (Source). We can expect most states to provide their final decisions shortly afterwards.
The NCBE has already announced that it will offer the exam materials for two other dates:
- September 9 – 10, 2020
- September 30 – October 1, 2020
You can find more details and stay up to date with the NCBE on their website (www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/).
Most non-UBE states are currently “undecided”. Some are going to abide by the recommendations of the NCBE regardless of their non-UBE status. Many are in a “plan to proceed” with the option to delay as the time gets closer.
Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have not posted anything about the exam on their websites. We assume that they are planning to proceed, but cannot be certain.
The following states have made confirmed changes to their dates:
- Alaska — Rescheduled to Sept. 9 & 10
- California – Postponed. Options under discussion. Preferred plan is Sept. 9 – 10
- Connecticut – Postponed. Dates TBA
- Hawai’i – Postponed. Dates TBA
- Maine – Rescheduled to Sept. 30 – Oct. 1
- Massachusetts – Rescheduled to Sept. 30 – Oct. 1
- New Hampshire – Rescheduled for Sept. 9 – 10
- New Jersey – Rescheduled for Sept. 9 – 10
- New York – Rescheduled for Sept. 9 – 10
- Seating is limited. So not everyone will be able to take New York.
- Rhode Island – Postponed. Dates TBA
- Vermont – Rescheduled for Sept. 9 – 10
- Washington, DC – Cancelled.
- May be rescheduled
- Guam – Rescheduled for Sept. 9 – 10
As you can see, most states who are postponing are rescheduling for the two alternative dates offered by the NCBE. So be prepared for a potential September exam.
Our main concerns at this point looking at the situation are:
1) How the NCBE will maintain two separate exams and honesty / fairness. Will the materials be different for both exams? Otherwise, it seems unfair to the early takers.
2) How law students with increasing debt and potentially jobs that were depending on bar passage will fair. We hope law firms and the loan companies will make adjustments for the situation.
If you want further information or details about your state, you can find the full list of links and data on the Bar Results page (https://blessingblc.org/bar-exam-results/)