Paul L. Caron

Friday, August 14, 2020

NCBE President To Bar Exam Test-Takers: 'I Understand Your Anxiety And Anger'

Karen Sloan (, 'I Understand the Anxiety and the Anger,' Says Top Bar Exam Official:

NCBE (2021)To say that tensions are running high over the bar exam would be an understatement.

Thousands of recent law graduates are aggressively lobbying jurisdictions across the country to adopt emergency diploma privileges that would allow them to get licensed without taking the bar exam—arguing that in-person tests are unsafe and online ones are riddled with technical and ethical problems. Hundreds more showed up for in-person exams last month, donning masks and trying—sometimes with limited success—to socially distance. At least one examinee in Colorado tested positive for COVID-19, learning of the result mere hours after finishing the in-person exam. And many candidates say they are frustrated by ongoing changes in plans surrounding the exam, with some tests postponed or altered mere days ahead of time.

Perhaps no one has taken more flak over the exam’s rocky pandemic rollout than Judith Gundersen, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which designs the exam used by nearly every jurisdiction. ... caught up with Gundersen this week to get her assessment of the current bar exam cycle, if she thinks online exams are feasible, and what she meant by that character and fitness comment. He answers have been edited for length and clarity. ...

There are a lot of people who feel very angry and who feel like this process has been mismanaged. Do you understand where that response is coming from?

I absolutely get it. You’ve gone to law school for three years. You think you are going to take the bar exam—which is stressful enough—then you think you can look for a job. And now it’s all been thrown into question. I understand it. But I guess I would say to them that the states and the courts are doing the best job they can and are trying to react to a situation that is very dynamic. I certainly understand the anxiety and the anger.

I think a lot of people are looking back to that April white paper the NCBE put out, which basically argued that a diploma privilege puts the public at risk. ...
Does the NCBE have a conflict of interest on the diploma privilege issue given that the whole purpose of the organization is to create and perpetuate the bar exam? ...
People have seized on the fact that you didn’t take the bar exam. You were licensed through Wisconsin’s longstanding diploma privilege program, which lets graduates of the state’s two law schools bypass the bar exam. And they have called you a hypocrite because of it. What’s your response to that?

I think it’s fair game. It’s completely ironic that NCBE is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin—the only state that still uses diploma privilege, at least before the pandemic. I’m a Wisconsin native. I grew up here. I went to school here because I had in-state tuition and it was a really good school. Diploma privilege was something I had not even thought about. But it is a total fair-game observation. I worked at NCBE for over 20 years, and consistent with our mission and my job, we are here to ensure that states have quality licensing materials. NCBE will keep doing that, notwithstanding the fact that I am a diploma privilege graduate. I don’t see it as hypocritical that we are continuing to do that and that other professions are continuing to requiring licensure exams in the midst of this pandemic.

Coronavirus, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


They’re not going to listen to a word she says because her first name is Karen.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 14, 2020 10:09:48 AM