Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Jurist op-ed: Act Now, Avert More Bar Exam Chaos Later, by Nicolas W. Allard (Former Dean, Brooklyn):
Now is the time for many state authorities to act decisively to avert more pandemic driven bar exam chaos. Without prompt action more testing failures, disruption, and delays are almost certain.
The evidence is in. The case is open and shut. Conventional in-person bar exams cannot and need not be held, at least so long as the COVID-19 pandemic makes them impractical and unsafe. Many states canceled scheduled in-person exams. Then at its August annual meeting, the American Bar Association passed a resolution that going forward this was the responsible thing to do given the scope and persistence of the global health emergency. Now what?
Overwhelming and mounting evidence indicates that simply expecting all candidates to take a remote online test is not yet technically feasible. It is also clear that postponements of licensing and requiring candidates to take the exam at home impose unfair burdens on many aspiring new lawyers, especially those with student debt and no jobs. Hardest hit are the underprivileged and disabled whose communities are underrepresented despite years of effort to make the profession more diverse. Anticipating these problems some states like New York acknowledged that the numerous challenges posed by remote exams administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners must be addressed. ...
[G]iven the collective wisdom and talent of our profession it should be possible to license new attorneys during the health crisis without undue delay. Without immediate action, the attendant problems will become worse and solutions will be more difficult as more new candidates graduate. It is not someone else’s responsibility. Each and every one of us should be informed, engaged, and willing to help admit qualified new lawyers into the profession, especially for the uncertain duration of our shared emergency. No less than the future of the profession and the wellbeing of the public is at stake.