If we have to have a bar exam, we should have an online exam. There’s no reason to put people into cramped indoor spaces for hours on end.
That said, it appears as though online bar exams are, in a word, a “clusterfuck”, so maybe that’s just not something we can do. ILG tried to get Indiana and Nevada ready for online exams in July and failed while ExamSoft managed to get Michigan’s exam completed after crashes and compromises.
Maybe things will be better by October?
Extegrity, the last of the big three potential bar exam providers, has surveyed the wreckage of last month’s exams and declared themselves out of the looming October 2020 debacle.
1/ EXCLUSIVE STATEMENT BY EXTEGRITY RE DECISION NOT TO OFFER SOFTWARE FOR OCT BAR EXAM (pic)@Extegrity notified interested BLEs on July 27 that “it will not participate in administration of remote proctored bar exams in October 2020.” @NCBEX recvd later (7/28) as did more BLEs. pic.twitter.com/CttjUGxsQQ
— Bar Exam Tracker (@BarExamTracker) August 6, 2020
There are two possible lessons to take from one of the major exam software providers declaring an online exam impossible in the provided timeframe. One, that there simply is no substitute for an in-person exam and everyone should stop complaining and prepare to be locked up with thousands of their peers in two months. That’s the sociopath’s take.
Alternatively, one could just do what the rest of human society has done with 2020 and recognize that some things just can’t happen if we’re going to survive this. The bar exam should be a lot easier to give up then the Olympics because if protecting the public is its goal then we’re certainly not seeing any evidence that exams are getting the job done. Even if long-term abolition is a bridge too far — which it probably shouldn’t be — balancing the dearth of support for the exam vs. the public health risks seems to weigh in favor of the latter at least temporarily.
To defend an in-person bar exam for the 2020 applicants requires knowing deep in your bones that some number of candidates who successfully passed law school are still ignorant of the subject matter required to practice and that a generalist exam covering topics those lawyers will never purport to work on is an effective way of finding those people and that doing so warrants the risk of giving a percentage of all applicants a life-altering and potentially deadly virus.
So, like I said, the sociopaths.
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.