Above please find the list of new dates for the Fall 2020 Bar Exam by State. Some states (like Louisiana) have gone to the extreme and are actually admitting “qualified applicants” without requiring the bar exam. Other states required un-monitored, at-home, open book tests that excluded the multiple choice portions or decreased the requirements.
While we welcome all new attorney and recognize the incredible stress everyone has been under during this period, it does speak to a new era for the legal field.
Current implementation practices beg the question of whether the bar exam is necessary at all. If applicants are qualified without taking the Multiple Choice portions now, why were they not qualified in February? And more important still – how can the bar association say they are not then qualified in 2021?
If applicants are able to take the exam with so few restrictions now (open-book, no monitoring), why force applicants to pay the cost for future trips to the exam centers? If the test is open-book now — why not open book all the time since that obviously doesn’t matter? Future complaints about fairness are guaranteed should the bar associations try to rescind these eases to the rules in the future.
If applicants who are not given the multiple choice portion are qualified to be lawyers on the Fall 2020 exam, why were they not qualified in February. How will the states say that it is a necessary determinant of your qualifications ever again?
Where is the assurance that the exams left un-monitored are actually being completed by the applicants in question? While some states require live video streaming, others have simply given up. One would wish that attorneys were somehow above the temptation of hiring someone to give them the answers or even take the exam for them; this is not the reality of our world. Having come from a university (well-ranked and reputable) where law students frequently discussed drug use, evading traffic tickets, and unethical study habits (hiding books from classmates, getting the exams from seniors) . . . . I can attest that lawyers often exhibit questionable ethics that then goes unnoticed by the character and fitness tests.
It seems unfair both to attorneys who took the exam before and those who have honestly taken the exam now to leave their results open to suspicion and mistrust by the public and future employers who know the bar exam is no longer a properly and vigorously monitored standard.
If the exam portions and testing circumstances matter so little to the state bars, it suggests the exam itself is relatively insignificant. Students spend far too much money (thousands of dollars) and time (months) on this exam for examiners to treat it with so little respect.
If the exam is not important (which many have argued), then eliminate it completely and consider other alternatives (e.g. an internship requirement). Let the students save their money and give them a better chance to start their futures with less debt and greater options for career movement. If the exam is important, then how can the present implementation strategies be justified as sufficient and professional?
The questions that remain are:
- How will this impact the bar exam passage rates (if they do not substantially improve, why not?)
- How will states implement the exam going forward after butchering it so badly this term?
*Nothing in this article is meant to denigrate the thousands of law students who rigorously studied, were properly prepared for the usual, more difficult exam, and who took it faithfully and honestly. This is simply intended to address some concerns within the field about the current implementation practices and to pose the question once again: Is the Bar Exam truly necessary?