Legal Law

Occupancy Restrict? NO PROBLEM! Bar Examination Simply Will get A Waiver For July Check

One of the themes of the social media reaction to the news that Colorado would ignore pleas to put off its July bar exam, or at least consider an online option, was the hope that the governor would intervene and slap stringent enough occupancy restrictions on the state — where infections are climbing daily — that the exam would have to be postponed.

We’ve all got to cling to our dreams, but I’m here to warn you all that it might not be enough.

Missouri imposed an occupancy cap limiting gatherings to fewer than 100 people. With only two originally planned locations — Columbia and Osage Beach — it seemed this would put a stop to the plan of stuffing 760 applicants and proctors into a bar exam. But don’t worry! The bar examiners asked for a waiver and got one because of the well-known “Lawyer” caveat to known epidemiological models. As bar examiners across the country will tell you, “If you went to law school, you’re immune to the coronavirus.”

Indeed.

Missouri had a rolling three-day average of 201 new cases a day a month ago. That figure today is 913. But they’ve got A PLAN!

Thank you for your email and for sharing your concerns. The organizers of the bar exam applied for and were approved for a waiver to accommodate more than the current gathering size limit of 100 people. In order for a business or organization to receive a waiver they have to demonstrate that they are able to maintain social distancing between all individuals for the entire event and have a strong disinfection plan, therefore limiting the risk for attendees. We encourage you and the other concerned law students to express your concerns to your event organizers if you haven’t already. They have a fairly robust plan for the event and would be able to share all the details with you.

To maintain recommended social distances of 6 feet, each person would require 113 sq. feet of space. Just fiddling on the back of an envelope here — the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia, the planned site of that administration — boasts 19,000 square feet in its Expo center which should accommodate around 168 people. That seems well short of the approximately 380 the bar examiners plan to stick in there. The MBLE says they’ve secured additional locations to maintain the 6 feet requirement. Maybe they have. But recognize that they’ll have to have almost doubled their original plan to pull it off.

[UPDATE: People are pointing out that this is wrong. I took this number directly from FEMA’s website “One way of converting the CDC’s 6-foot separation criteria to occupant load is to simply calculate the area of a circle with a radius of 6 feet, which is equal to approximately 113 square feet per person.” WHICH IS WRONG! Because it would be a radius of 6 feet, but a radius of 3 feet! It’s actually kind of terrifying that they have this wrong. In any event, Missouri has a lot more room to work with — it’s about 28 sq. ft. Though since no one is going to work out a circular seating pattern we may as well assume it’s 36 sq. ft. That would afford enough room assuming no one ever moves and there are no provisions for aisles outside of anyone’s zone. Still… crazy.]

I’m incredulous.

And so are the applicants, who have written multiple letters seeking an alternative and filed a petition that at least two of the law school deans in the state have joined.

However, the Missouri bar examiners haven’t budged and instead have taken to LinkedIn to recruit even more proctors now that they’ve expanded locations:

I don’t know what happens after that screenshot but I’ve had a lot of fun imagining the next line. “I would offer to proctor myself, but law… requires me to stay 500 yards away from schools” or “I would offer to proctor myself, but law enforcement needs Batman to keep the schedule open.” What did this person do before he or she took an arrow in the knee?!? We will never know!!!

Canceling reservations at private venues is hard when the state government is no longer in lockdown mode. I get it. But sometimes those are the breaks and it’s better to suck it up than get people sick and rely on the questionably enforceable waiver the bar exams are asking graduates to sign. Discretion is the better part of valor, folks.

Or to put it in terms a law examiner might appreciate: just consider not inviting danger.

Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.

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