This graphic shows a map of the United States overlaid by a depiction of the coronavirus and a picture of the scales of justice. The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented upheaval in all aspects of American life. All sectors have been affected, requiring them to rapidly transform their processes and day-to-day activities in ways that would have been unfathomable pre-pandemic—from remote instruction at all levels of education to virtual events and ceremonies—and all doing so under circumstances that were constantly changing as health and safety guidelines evolved.

For those involved in bar admissions, administration of the in-person July bar exam became increasingly uncertain in most jurisdictions. As shown in the timeline below, NCBE quickly addressed how to assist jurisdictions by announcing that we would make our exam materials available on two additional dates in the fall, and later announcing an emergency remote testing option for early October. We held weekly roundtables for jurisdiction bar administrators to offer a means for them to discuss challenges and exchange ideas as they confronted the many issues and decisions involved in administering the bar exam during a pandemic. We maintained a regularly updated set of pages on our website at www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/ with jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction announcements, a map and a table showing the status of each jurisdiction’s plans for the exam, and FAQs regarding the July and fall exams and the emergency October remote option.

As Courts made decisions surrounding the in-person July exam—with some deciding to proceed, others deciding to postpone to one of the three fall dates, and a few deciding to develop their own remote exams on alternate dates—some also explored additional opportunities to help the class of 2020, such as expanding or adopting rules to allow recent graduates to practice temporarily under the supervision of a licensed attorney until they are able to take the bar exam, or adopting an emergency diploma privilege option whereby certain graduates would be eligible for admission without having to pass the bar exam.

Meanwhile, bar admission administrators in jurisdictions proceeding with in-person exams began mountain-­moving efforts to administer the exam safely, consulting with local health authorities to ensure compliance with the latest health and safety guidelines. Administrators and their staff members worked to ensure compliance and safe administration of the exam—from renting additional venues to allow for adequate physical distancing of examinees, to designing traffic patterns and contactless check-in of examinees within those venues, to devising systems for the safe handling of exam materials before, during, and after the exam administration.

This special Bar Examiner section chronicles how plans to administer the July bar exam unfolded in the 56 jurisdictions.

A Timeline of NCBE Decisions

Beginning in the early stages of the pandemic, NCBE actively monitored the situation and took steps to ensure that jurisdictions would have additional opportunities to administer the bar exam in 2020.

March 31: NCBE announces that it will make a decision on or about May 5 about whether to deploy the MBE, MEE, and MPT for a July administration and that it will offer another set of exam materials for a fall administration.(The decision about whether to deploy exam materials for a July administration was to be based on there being a sufficient number of jurisdictions and examinees to support equating of scores.)

April 3: NCBE announces that it  will make exam materials available for two fall administrations:  September 9–10  and September 30– October 1. May 5: NCBE confirms that, based on the number of jurisdictions planning to proceed with the July exam, it will make exam materials available for the July exam. June 1: NCBE announces that it will provide a limited set of questions (MBE, MEE, MPT) to jurisdictions for an emergency remote testing option on October 5–6 for local admission.

How Jurisdictions Adapted to Ever-Changing Circumstances

The following series of maps illustrates the changing landscape of the bar exam throughout the country as jurisdictions made decisions about administration of the July exam in the face of the pandemic—decisions they were sometimes required to change as the situation evolved.

April 23, 2020

These US maps illustrate the changing landscape of the bar exam throughout the country as jurisdictions made decisions about administration of the July exam in the face of the pandemic—decisions they were sometimes required to change as the situation evolved. The purpose of the maps is to visually portray the evolution of jurisdiction decisions about the July 2020 exam. The accompanying keys for each map explaining the meaning of the different colors, symbols, and patterns are not included. The latest version of the map including its key is available at www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/july-2020-bar-exam-jurisdiction-information/. The first map is labeled April 23, 2020, and shows most of the country in green, with Alaska, Hawaii, Georgia, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Guam in orange; Utah, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the US Virgin Islands in purple; and Maine and Massachusetts in blue.

June 4, 2020

These US maps illustrate the changing landscape of the bar exam throughout the country as jurisdictions made decisions about administration of the July exam in the face of the pandemic—decisions they were sometimes required to change as the situation evolved. The purpose of the maps is to visually portray the evolution of jurisdiction decisions about the July 2020 exam. The accompanying keys for each map explaining the meaning of the different colors, symbols, and patterns are not included. The latest version of the map including its key is available at www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/july-2020-bar-exam-jurisdiction-information/.  The second map, labeled June 4, 2020, shows California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware turning orange; New Mexico turning purple; Utah and Connecticut turning blue; Louisiana turning gray; and the addition of red jurisdictions (Washington, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, and Minnesota) and brown jurisdictions (Kentucky and Tennessee).

July 6, 2020

These US maps illustrate the changing landscape of the bar exam throughout the country as jurisdictions made decisions about administration of the July exam in the face of the pandemic—decisions they were sometimes required to change as the situation evolved. The purpose of the maps is to visually portray the evolution of jurisdiction decisions about the July 2020 exam. The accompanying keys for each map explaining the meaning of the different colors, symbols, and patterns are not included. The latest version of the map including its key is available at www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/july-2020-bar-exam-jurisdiction-information/. The third map, labeled July 6, 2020, shows Texas and New Mexico turning orange, Tennessee turning blue, Florida turning gray, and Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts turning light purple.

Sept. 24, 2020

These US maps illustrate the changing landscape of the bar exam throughout the country as jurisdictions made decisions about administration of the July exam in the face of the pandemic—decisions they were sometimes required to change as the situation evolved. The purpose of the maps is to visually portray the evolution of jurisdiction decisions about the July 2020 exam. The accompanying keys for each map explaining the meaning of the different colors, symbols, and patterns are not included. The latest version of the map including its key is available at www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/july-2020-bar-exam-jurisdiction-information/.  The fourth map, labeled September 24, 2020, shows a shift to light purple for California, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware, and the US Virgin Islands; it also shows Nevada turning gray, Virginia turning red, and Wyoming and Alabama turning brown.

The purpose of the maps shown above is to visually portray the evolution of jurisdiction decisions about the July 2020 exam. The accompanying keys for each map explaining the meaning of the different colors, symbols, and patterns are not included. The latest version of the map including its key is available at www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/july-2020-bar-exam-jurisdiction-information/. A chart showing the final status of jurisdiction decisions, and a digest of jurisdiction announcements are found below.

Sept. 24, 2020

This US map shows in yellow the jurisdictions that expanded or adopted rules during the pandemic to allow recent graduates to practice temporarily under supervision until they are able to take the bar exam. The map is labeled September 24, 2020, and shows the following jurisdictions in yellow: Alaska, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Guam.

This map shows in yellow the jurisdictions that expanded or adopted rules during the pandemic to allow recent graduates to practice temporarily under supervision until they are able to take the bar exam.

July, September, and October 2020 Bar Exams in Numbers

From administering in-person exams, remote exams, or both, the results of the jurisdictions’ responses to the pandemic are summarized below. For a list of exam decisions made by jurisdiction, see the table.

(Note: The numbers account for all 56 jurisdictions, including those that did not use NCBE materials for their 2020 exams.)

In-Person Exam

32 jurisdictions decided to administer in-person exams (4 were in addition to remote exams)

32 jurisdictions decided to administer in-person exams

7 jurisdictions decided to administer two in-person exams

7 of these 32 jurisdictions decided to administer two in-person exams

In-Person Exam & Remote Exam

4 jurisdictions decided to administer both in-person and remote exams

4 jurisdictions decided to administer both in-person and remote exams

Canceled Exam

3 jurisdictions canceled the exam until 2021

3 jurisdictions canceled the exam until 2021

Remote Exam

25 jurisdictions decided to administer remote exams (4 were in addition to in-person exams)

25 jurisdictions decided to administer remote exams

20 jurisdictions decided to administer NCBE’s emergency remote testing option

20 of these 25 jurisdictions decided to administer NCBE’s emergency remote testing option

5 jurisdictions decided to administer remote exams using locally drafted questions

5 of these 25 jurisdictions decided to administer remote exams using locally drafted questions

14 jurisdictions administering NCBE’s emergency remote testing option entered into agreements to accept scores from other jurisdictions administering the remote test

14 of the 20 jurisdictions administering NCBE’s emergency remote testing option entered into agreements to accept scores from other jurisdictions administering the remote test

Emergency Diploma Privilege

5 jurisdictions adopted an emergency diploma privilege option

5 jurisdictions adopted an emergency diploma privilege option

Supervised Practice Rules

31 jurisdictions expanded or adopted supervised practice rules

31 jurisdictions expanded or adopted supervised practice rules

July 2020 Bar Exam: Final Status by Jurisdiction

Bar Exam Date Jurisdictions Remotely Administered Exam Expansion/Adoption of Supervised/Provisional Practice Rule Diploma Privilege Option
July 28–29
(Note: Jurisdictions administering in July AND a fall date are listed further below.)
Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan (one-day exam, July 28), Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Northern Mariana Islands Michigan Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, South Dakota  
Sept. 9–10
(Note: Jurisdictions administering on Sept. 9–10 AND an additional fall date are listed further below.)
Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico   Alaska  
Sept. 30–Oct. 1 Maine, Rhode Island, Utah     Utah
Oct. 5–6 California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania (three-day exam, Oct. 5–7), Tennessee, Vermont, Virgin Islands California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virgin Islands California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont District of Columbia
July AND Sept. 9–10 Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia (one-day exam, Sept. 10), Washington   Minnesota, Washington Washington
July AND Sept. 30–Oct. 1 Alabama, Wyoming   Alabama, Wyoming  
July AND Oct. 5–6 Arizona, Idaho, Oregon Arizona, Idaho, Oregon (Oct. 5–6 remote exam offered as an option in addition to in-person July exam for Arizona, Idaho, Oregon) Arizona Oregon
Sept. 9–10 AND Oct. 5–6 Texas Texas (Oct. 5–6 remote exam offered as an option in addition to in-person Sept. exam)    
Custom date(s) Florida (Oct. 13), Indiana (Aug. 4), Louisiana (Aug. 24 or Oct. 20), Nevada (Aug. 11–12), Puerto Rico (Nov. 14) Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada Florida, Indiana, Nevada Louisiana
2020 exam canceled Delaware, Guam, Palau   Delaware, Guam  

 

A Digest of Jurisdiction Announcements

Below follows an account of the decisions and emergency rule changes made in each jurisdiction pertaining to the July 2020 bar exam in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The digest below focuses on changes to the date or type of exam administered; the expansion or adoption of temporary supervised practice rules; and adoption of emergency diploma privilege, or denial of petitions or requests for diploma privilege. Other decisions, such as those involving registration fees and deadlines, the seating capacity limits imposed in some jurisdictions, or the mechanics of administering the in-person exam, are not included here.

The October 5–6 remote exam mentioned in the announcements below refers to the emergency remote testing option for local admission that NCBE provided to jurisdictions should a jurisdiction determine that it could not administer an in-person exam during the COVID-19 pandemic. The remote exam consisted of a limited set of questions (MBE, MEE, and MPT); jurisdictions could decide which of these abbreviated test materials to use for their exams. Twenty jurisdictions held a remote exam on October 5–6 (four of these jurisdictions also held earlier in-person exams). While scores earned on the remote exam do not qualify as UBE scores, 14 of the 20 jurisdictions administering the remote exam entered into agreements with one another to accept scores from other jurisdictions administering the remote exam.


Alabama

On May 8, the Supreme Court of Alabama announced that it would administer the Alabama Bar Examination in July. The Court also announced that it had issued an order making certain temporary exceptions to the Alabama Rule for Legal Internship by Law Students, which allows third-year law students to perform many functions of an attorney licensed in Alabama. Participation in this program is normally limited to those students who have registered as a law student with the Alabama State Bar, and the ability to participate in the program ends on the date of release of results from the first Alabama bar exam administered after the student’s date of law school graduation. The order allows any applicant for the July 2020 bar exam to participate as a student intern, and it allows participation to the earlier of either the student intern’s date of admission to the Alabama State Bar or the date of release of results from the February 2021 Alabama bar exam.

On July 12, the Court issued an order confirming its intention to administer the exam in July and adding an alternate administration on September 30–
October 1.

Alaska

The Alaska Bar Association rescheduled its July bar examination for September 9–10. On August 12, the Alaska Supreme Court adopted a supervised practitioner rule allowing law school graduates to practice law for 12 months under supervision of a lawyer authorized to practice in Alaska.  

On August 28, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an order denying the application of various bar exam applicants for diploma privilege or, in the alternative, a remote exam.

Arizona

On April 6, the Arizona Supreme Court issued an order authorizing the emergency adoption of Court rule changes allowing law school students and recent graduates the limited ability to practice law in Arizona under the supervision of an attorney licensed in Arizona.

On July 1, the Court announced that it would offer a remote exam on October 5–6 in addition to the in-person bar examination in July.

Arkansas

On April 30, the Arkansas Supreme Court announced its intention to administer the Arkansas Bar Examination in July, but that if it could not do so, the exam would be rescheduled for September (the September provision was not needed).

On July 9, the Court reaffirmed its intention to proceed with the in-person bar exam in July; it also adopted an emergency rule allowing persons properly registered for the July bar exam who are unwilling or unable to sit for that exam to be permitted to temporarily engage in the limited practice of law under the direct supervision of an Arkansas-licensed attorney.

California

On April 27, the Supreme Court of California ordered the July California Bar Examination to be postponed to September 9–10 and directed the State Bar to make every effort to administer the exam online using remote or electronic proctoring. On July 16, the Court canceled the September in-­person exam and announced that it would administer a remote exam on October 5–6. The Court also announced a permanent change in the passing score from 1440 to 1390 and a provisional licensure program to allow 2020 law school graduates to temporarily practice law under supervision until they can take and pass the California Bar Exam.

On September 23, the Court denied a request from various petitioners for an emergency order waiving the California Bar Exam requirement for admission and granting immediate diploma privilege admission to applicants registered for the October exam.

Colorado

On May 14, the Colorado Supreme Court announced its intention to proceed with the July bar examination, but that if the exam could not be administered in July, it would be rescheduled for September 30–October 1 (the September 30–October provision was not needed).

On July 9, the Court issued an emergency rule allowing graduates who wish to postpone taking the exam until February 2021 to engage in limited practice under the supervision of a qualifying attorney. Previously, the Court had announced an emergency limited license rule allowing recent law graduates to be certified for practice in the event the July exam would need to be postponed.

Connecticut

On March 30, the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee announced that the Connecticut Bar Examination would not be administered in July but was being postponed until fall, on dates to be determined. On April 24, the Committee announced that the exam would be administered on September 30–October 1. On July 23, the Committee announced the cancellation of the in-person exam and announced its intention to offer a remote exam on October 5–6.

On May 11, the Connecticut Rules Committee adopted a temporary and emergency expansion of its legal intern rules.

On August 31, Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson of the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a letter in response to a petition for diploma privilege, announcing that he would not seek a rule change allowing emergency diploma privilege at this time.

Delaware

On May 11, the Delaware Supreme Court announced that the July bar examination would be rescheduled for September 9–11. On July 24, the Court announced its cancellation of the September exam. The next exam will be held in July 2021. (Delaware does not administer a February exam.)

On August 12, the Court issued an emergency temporary order to allow certain applicants registered for the 2020 exam to temporarily engage in the limited practice of law under supervision pending the next administration of the Delaware Bar Exam.

District of Columbia

On April 10, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an order canceling the July bar examination and stating that an announcement regarding the feasibility of a fall exam would be made by May 4. On May 4, the Court announced that the exam would be administered on September 9–10, unless future health directives made safe administration of the exam unfeasible. On June 8, the Court announced cancellation of the September in-­person exam and that it would instead administer a remote exam on October 5–6.

On September 24, the Court filed an order adopting two rules on an emergency basis. One rule provides an emergency diploma privilege for 2019 or 2020 JD graduates of ABA-approved law schools who had applied to take a bar examination in the District of Columbia in 2020 and who have not been admitted to the bar in another jurisdiction, failed a bar examination, or had a bar application denied. Persons admitted under this emergency rule must practice under the supervision of an active member of the DC bar for the first three years after admission. The other rule permits 2019 or 2020 JD graduates of ABA-approved law schools who had or have applied to take a bar examination in the District of Columbia in 2020 or 2021 and who have not been admitted to the bar in another jurisdiction, failed a bar examination, or had a bar application denied to practice law, temporarily and under supervision, even though they have not yet taken and passed a bar exam.

Florida

On May 5, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners announced its intention to proceed with the administration of the bar examination in July. On July 1, the Board announced its cancellation of the July exam and its intention to administer an online exam on August 18; the administration date was then changed two days later to August 19 to avoid a conflict with the primary election in Florida. For the August 2020 exam only, Florida applicants would not be required to take the MBE. On August 16, the Board announced that the exam scheduled for August 19 would not go forward and that it would reschedule the exam for a date to be determined in October. On August 26, the Board announced that its remote bar exam would be administered on October 13. The exam would use an online format consisting of 100 multiple-­choice questions and three essay questions.

The Supreme Court of Florida issued an administrative order on August 24 establishing a Temporary Supervised Practice Program under which applicants to the Florida bar who were registered to take the July 2020 bar exam may practice law on a temporary basis under the supervision of a member of the Florida bar.

On September 3, the Supreme Court of Florida denied a petition of more than 50 members of the Florida Bar to adopt emergency rules providing for admission without examination for July 2020 applicants who had graduated from an ABA-accredited law school.

Georgia

On April 17, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an order rescheduling the July bar examination for September 9–10. On July 20, the Court announced its cancellation of the in-person September exam and its decision to offer a remote exam on October 5–6, using the MBE and MPT materials provided by NCBE and several essay questions prepared by the Georgia Board of Bar Examiners covering Georgia law.

The Court adopted a temporary rule on April 17 allowing recent law school graduates to become provisionally admitted to practice law prior to taking the bar exam. The new rule also provides a process for lawyers admitted to the bar of another state who have recently moved to Georgia to obtain provisional admission.

Guam

The Supreme Court of Guam issued an order on April 9 rescheduling the July bar examination for September 9–10. On September 1, the Court issued an order canceling the September exam.

On September 1, the Court also temporarily modified the requirements of Rule 2.01 of the Guam Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law to adopt a Temporary Supervised Practice Rule.

Hawaii

The Hawaii Supreme Court, in consultation with the Hawaii Board of Bar Examiners, announced on March 31 that the July bar examination would be rescheduled for fall, on dates to be determined. On April 20, the Court announced that the exam would be held on September 9–10. On July 24, the Court further announced that the passing score for the September exam would be temporarily modified to 133.

Idaho

On July 20, the Idaho Supreme Court issued an order extending the term for legal intern licenses for 2020 law school graduates until October 31, 2021.

The Court also directed the Idaho State Bar to administer a remote bar exam on October 5–6; this remote exam would be given in addition to the in-person exam administered in July.

On July 20, Chief Justice Roger Burdick of the Idaho Supreme Court issued a letter to the Idaho State Bar addressing recent requests from students and law school faculty for an emergency diploma privilege for 2020 graduates, stating that such a request will not be granted and that the bar exam will proceed as scheduled.

Illinois

On May 1, the Supreme Court of Illinois issued an order postponing the July bar examination until September 9–10. On July 23, the Court canceled the in-­person September exam and announced that it would administer a remote exam on October 5–6.

On July 2, the Court announced the amendment of Rule 711(g) temporarily expanding the class of employers eligible to supervise new law school graduates, which already included legal aid bureaus and government agencies, to include private law firms and other for-profit entities. This temporary amendment applies to December 2019 and all 2020 graduates of ABA-accredited law schools, as well as to earlier graduates who have been serving as judicial law clerks since their graduation and have not yet taken a bar examination.

On July 16, the Court issued an order denying the petition of several 2020 Illinois bar applicants for emergency diploma privilege.

Indiana

On April 8, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order amending the time limitations of its graduate legal intern rule, allowing any graduate of an ABA-­accredited law school who graduated after November 2019, and who has not sat for a bar examination in Indiana or any other jurisdiction prior to February 2021, to serve as a graduate legal intern until February 28, 2021. If the graduate sits for the February 2021 Indiana bar examination, the graduate’s legal intern status will remain until the graduate is notified of the results of the exam.

On May 7, the Court ordered the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners to conduct a one-day bar examination, administered remotely, on July 28. The exam would consist of the Indiana Essay Examination and a series of short-answer questions on the topics tested on the MBE. On July 24, the Court announced that due to technological problems, the remotely administered exam scheduled for July 28 would be delayed one week until August 4. On July 29, the Court announced that the August 4 exam would be in an open-book format, with no live monitoring or proctoring. Applicants would receive the exam questions by email and submit responses by email.

Iowa

On May 6, the Iowa Supreme Court entered an order confirming the decision of the Iowa Board of Law Examiners to administer the in-person bar examination in July; in the event the exam could not be administered in July, it would be rescheduled for September 9–10 (the September provision was not needed).

Kansas

On April 17, the Kansas Supreme Court announced that it would offer an additional in-person administration of the bar exam on September 9–10, in addition to the regularly scheduled July administration. On May 14, the Court affirmed its plan to administer the exam in July.

Kentucky

On April 15, the Supreme Court of Kentucky announced its intention to administer the Kentucky Bar Examination in July, and that if it could not be administered in July, it would be rescheduled for September. On May 11, the Court announced that it would also administer an exam on September 30–October 1, in addition to the July exam.

On May 13, the Court issued an order temporarily permitting supervised practice of law pending admission for JD graduates of ABA-approved law schools who have not sat for any bar examination prior to July 2020 and who had applied for the July or September 2020 Kentucky Bar Examination. This order is effective from June 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020, or until further order of the Court.

On July 9, the Court announced its cancellation of the July and fall 2020 in-person exams and its decision to administer a remote exam on October 5–6.

The Court also revised its temporary rule regarding supervised practice of law pending admission to allow individuals who have registered for the October remote exam to apply for temporary admission in the interim.

Louisiana

On May 8, the Louisiana Supreme Court and its Committee on Bar Admissions announced that the three-day bar examination previously scheduled for July 20, 22, and 24 had been canceled and that a one-day, limited-scope bar examination would be administered on two dates: July 27 and October 10. On June 3, the Court and the Committee announced the addition of an online option to the previously announced exam dates and locations. On July 15, the Court announced its decision to cancel both the in-person and remote administrations of the July 27 exam. On July 22, the Court added a second remote administration of the one-day exam on August 24, in addition to the previously scheduled administration on October 10.

On August 12, the Court issued an order modifying the remote administration of the exam, ordering that the two remote exams, on August 24 and October 10, would be in open-book format, with no live monitoring or proctoring, and that applicants would receive the exam questions by email and submit their responses by email.

Due to the impact of Hurricane Laura, the remote exam scheduled for August 24 in Louisiana was rescheduled for August 31. On October 7, due to incoming Hurricane Delta, the remote exam scheduled for October 10 was rescheduled for October 20.

On July 22, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an order permitting emergency admission, without examination (i.e., diploma privilege), for applicants who have already completed registration for either the July or October 2020 Louisiana bar examination; graduated from an ABA-accredited law school in December 2019 or later; have not previously sat for any bar examination in any US state or territory; and will not be taking any bar examination in any US state or territory in 2020. Such qualified applicants must satisfy all other requirements for admission, including demonstrating requisite character and fitness and passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), and must also complete 25 hours of continuing legal education and complete all requirements of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Transition into Practice program no later than December 31, 2021.

Maine

On April 15, the State of Maine Judicial Branch announced that the July 2020 bar examination in Maine had been rescheduled for September 30–
October 1.

Maryland

The Maryland State Board of Bar Examiners announced on May 26 that it would not administer the bar examination in July but tentatively planned to reschedule the exam for September 9–10. On June 17, the Board sent notice to all July/September 2020 applicants that it had determined that it could not safely administer an in-­person bar exam in September. On the Board’s recommendation, the Maryland Court of Appeals authorized a remote exam administration on October 5–6. On August 28, the Court confirmed its intention to offer the remote exam in October and also announced that current applicants for that exam would be given the option to apply for a temporary special authorization to provide supervised legal services in Maryland in lieu of taking the October remote exam. The special authorization to engage in supervised practice will terminate no later than the date of the February or July 2022 bar examination in Maryland.

On August 28, the Court issued an administrative order in response to a petition for diploma privilege submitted by certain applicants to the Maryland Bar confirming its intention to proceed with the October exam.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners announced in a March 30 press release that the July bar examination would be postponed until fall. The press release was updated on April 6 to announce that the exam would be held on September 30–October 1. On July 1, the Court and the Board of Bar Examiners announced that the September 30–October 1 in-person exam had been canceled and that a remote exam would be offered on October 5–6.

On April 23, the Court also announced a temporary expansion of its student practice rule. The expansion permits a graduate to appear in court under limited circumstances if the graduate’s dean has filed approval at any time before graduation; the usual rule is that approval must be filed at least three months before graduation.

Michigan

On May 18, the Michigan Supreme Court announced that the Michigan Board of Law Examiners would administer a one-day, online bar exam on July 28 consisting solely of the essay portion of the traditional exam. The 15 essay questions would cover the same subject areas covered by the MBE, and experts would work with the Board to determine an appropriate passing score based on results from previous July exams.

Minnesota

The Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners announced on May 20 its intention to administer the bar examination as scheduled in July and to offer an additional in-person administration on September 9–10.

On June 5, the Supreme Court of Minnesota adopted amendments to the Student Practice Rules proposed by the State Board of Law Examiners in April. These amendments broaden the scope of the rules by allowing recent law school graduates to practice under the supervision of a Minnesota-licensed lawyer in good standing.

On June 22, applicants to the Minnesota Bar who were registered for the Minnesota Bar Exam petitioned the Supreme Court of Minnesota for a temporary waiver of the bar exam requirement for admission to the bar and provision of an emergency diploma privilege for any applicant currently registered for the July 2020, September 2020, or February 2021 bar exam. On July 14, after reviewing and considering all comments, the Court denied the petition.

Mississippi

Mississippi administered its in-person bar examination in July.

Missouri

On April 28, the Supreme Court of Missouri announced its intention to administer the Missouri Bar Examination as scheduled in July, but that if it was unable to do so, the exam would be rescheduled for September 9–10 (the September provision was not needed).

The Court also adopted temporary rule modifications that apply only to properly filed applicants for the July 2020 bar exam. Its rule pertaining to legal assistance by law students was modified to permit active law student certifications to remain in effect until the announcement of the results of the February 2021 exam, and for any student who passes that exam, the certification shall continue in effect until the date they are admitted to the bar.

On July 9, the Clerk of the Supreme Court issued a statement in response to a student-led petition seeking diploma privilege, in which the Court reaffirmed its intention to proceed with the July exam.

Montana

On June 17, the Montana Supreme Court issued an order approving temporary rules to allow provisional admission to the bar for certain eligible candidates unable or unwilling to sit for the in-person administration of the exam in July. On July 14, the Court issued an order in response to a petition from an attorney on behalf of the members of the class of 2020 seeking diploma privilege, in which the Court denied the petition.

Nebraska

On May 7, the Nebraska Supreme Court announced its intention to administer the bar examination as scheduled in July and to add another in-person administration on September 9–10.

After receiving a petition for waiver of the bar examination requirement for admission to the bar and for provision of an emergency diploma privilege, the Court issued an order, on July 11, denying the petition and confirming the Court’s intention to offer in-person exams in July and September.

Nevada

The Nevada Supreme Court issued an order on May 20 directing the Nevada Board of Bar Examiners to conduct the July 2020 bar examination remotely. The exam would be an open-book test consisting of eight one-hour essay questions and a performance test prepared by the Board. The MBE would not be administered. The Nevada Board of Bar Examiners subsequently announced that, due to technological problems, the July remote exam would be postponed until August 11–12.

On August 5, the Court issued an order in response to a petition by a member of the class of 2020 requesting that the Court reconsider its earlier decision against granting diploma privilege; the Court denied the petition.

New Hampshire

On April 10, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire adopted the recommendation of the New Hampshire Board of Bar Examiners and ordered that the New Hampshire Bar Examination not be administered in July. On April 14, the Court announced that the exam had been rescheduled for September 9–10. On July 22, the Court canceled the September in-person exam and announced that it would offer a remote exam on October 5–6.

New Jersey

On April 6, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an order postponing the July 2020 New Jersey bar exam until September 9–10 and relaxing and expanding Court rules to allow 2020 law school graduates to temporarily practice law under the supervision of experienced attorneys. On July 15, the Court canceled the September exam and authorized the Board of Bar Examiners to administer a remote exam on October 5–6.

New Mexico

On April 28, the Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico issued an order postponing the July 2020 New Mexico bar examination until sometime in September. The order also included planning for a possible temporary, limited supervised practice program for applicants awaiting an opportunity to take the bar exam, only if the exam could not be administered in 2020. On June 25, the New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners announced that it would administer the exam on September 9–10.

New York

The New York Court of Appeals announced in a March 27 press release that the July bar examination would be rescheduled for fall 2020. On April 6, it announced that the exam would be rescheduled to September 9–10. On July 16, the New York State Board of Law Examiners, after consultation with the Court, canceled the in-person exam scheduled for September 9–10. On July 24, the Board announced that New York would administer a remote exam on October 5–6.

The Court also amended its rules to further enhance a previously approved program designed to provide temporary authorization for qualified law graduates to engage in the limited practice of law under the supervision of a qualified attorney.

The Court had received several letters and petitions requesting that 2020 law graduates be granted diploma privilege, a measure the Court declined to adopt.

North Carolina

On May 5, the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners announced its intention to administer the July bar examination as scheduled, but that if administration of the exam in July were not possible, it would reschedule the exam for September 9–10 (the September provision was not needed). On July 23, the Board announced that the minimum passing score for the July 2020 and February 2021 North Carolina bar examinations would be reduced from 270 to 268, as would the minimum acceptable score for UBE score transfer for applicants who sit for the UBE in July 2020, September 2020, or February 2021. The minimum passing score will return to 270 with the July 2021 examination.

In early July, the chair of the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners issued a response on behalf of the Board to a letter sent by a group of law students, law school faculty, and attorneys urging the Court to adopt diploma privilege for 2020 graduates; the letter reaffirmed the Board’s decision to administer the exam in July.

North Dakota

On April 10, the North Dakota Board of Bar Examiners issued a policy statement indicating its intention to administer the bar examination as scheduled in July; if it could not administer the exam in July, the exam would be rescheduled for September 9–10 (the September provision was not needed).

Northern Mariana Islands

Northern Mariana Islands administered its in-person bar examination in July. The exam consisted only of the written portion of the exam; the MBE was not included as part of the July 2020 exam.

Ohio

On May 13, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued an order postponing the July bar exam until September 9–10 and expanding its Practice Pending Admission during the Admission to the Practice of Law Process for recent law school graduates. On July 22, the Court canceled the September in-­person exam and announced its intention to administer a remote exam on October 5–6.

On July 28, the Court announced its decision to deny a petition requesting emergency diploma privilege and a temporary decrease in the UBE minimum passing score for all individuals registered for the September 2020 Ohio bar examination.

Oklahoma

On May 8, the Oklahoma Board of Bar Examiners announced its intention to proceed with the regularly scheduled bar examination in July.

Oregon

On June 30, the Oregon Supreme Court announced the implementation of an emergency diploma privilege for applicants who had submitted complete applications by May 30 for the July 2020 Oregon bar examination and who were 2020 graduates of one of the three Oregon law schools, or any other ABA-accredited law school whose bar passage rate for first-time takers in 2019 was 86% or greater. The Court also announced that the cut score for the July 2020 UBE in Oregon would be reduced from 274 to 266. Applicants taking the UBE in another jurisdiction in July, September, or late September/early October 2020 would be considered eligible for admission if they receive a score of 266 or higher. Finally, the Court announced that Oregon would offer a remote bar exam on October 5–6.

Oregon administered the in-person bar examination as scheduled in July.

Palau

The Supreme Court of Palau announced on June 17 its cancellation of the July 2020 Palau bar exam. The next exam will be held in July 2021. (Palau does not administer a February exam.)

Pennsylvania

On April 28, the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners announced its rescheduling of the July 2020 bar exam to September 9–10. On July 8, the Board announced the cancellation of the September bar exam and the decision to administer a remote bar exam on October 5–7. (The remote exam materials provided by NCBE would be administered on October 5 and 6, and Pennsylvania’s own essay exam would be administered on October 7.)

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an order on April 28 permitting supervised temporary limited practice of law by certain July 2020 Pennsylvania bar exam applicants who had graduated from an ABA-accredited law school and had never failed the Pennsylvania bar examination.

On July 22, the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners issued a letter in response to a letter from the deans of law schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey requesting an emergency diploma privilege for 2020 law school graduates. The Board declined the request. On September 10, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Western District, considered a petition for review under the Court’s exclusive jurisdiction and for extraordinary relief under the Court’s King’s Bench jurisdiction, filed by various 2020 law school graduates and others. The Court denied the petition.

Puerto Rico

The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico announced on August 3 that the Puerto Rico Bar Examination would take place on
November 14.

Rhode Island

On April 13, the Rhode Island Judiciary announced that the July bar examination would be postponed indefinitely. On June 11, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ordered that the exam be administered on September 30–October 1.

South Carolina

In a July 2 order, the Supreme Court of South Carolina announced its intention to proceed with the July bar examination. In a previous announcement, the Court had announced that if it could not administer the exam in July, the exam would be rescheduled for September 9–10 (the September provision was not needed).

South Dakota

On May 6, the Supreme Court of South Dakota issued an order amending its supervised practice rule to extend the certification term for July bar exam applicants. The order also made provisions in the event NCBE materials would not be available for the July exam, authorizing the South Dakota Board of Bar Examiners to develop and administer a 10-question essay exam on July 28. If the July exam needed to be canceled altogether, the Board would administer the exam on the next available dates for which NCBE made materials available.

South Dakota administered the in-­person bar examination as scheduled in July.

Tennessee

On April 2, the Tennessee Supreme Court entered an order temporarily modifying its Rule 7 to extend the time applicants can practice under supervision or pending admission to November 15, 2021.

On April 17, the Court announced its intention to administer the bar examination as scheduled in July and also on September 31–October 1. On July 2, the Court ordered cancellation of the July exam. On July 13, the Court canceled the September 31–October 1 exam and announced its intention to offer a remote exam on October 5–6.

A petition to the Tennessee Supreme Court by various applicants for admission to the Tennessee bar was submitted on June 30. The petition asked for an emergency diploma privilege in lieu of a bar examination and was supported by the deans of the four Tennessee law schools. On July 14, the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners filed a brief opposing the petition. The Court denied the petition for emergency diploma privilege on July 21.

Texas

On April 29, the Supreme Court of Texas, in consultation with the Board of Law Examiners, issued an order that the Board should administer the Texas Bar Examination as scheduled in July and should also offer an administration on September 9–10. On July 3, the Court ordered the cancellation of the July exam. The Court directed the Board of Bar Examiners to administer the exam in September and also to offer a remote exam on October 5–6.

On April 29, the Court also adopted updated rules for the participation of qualified law students and qualified unlicensed law school graduates in the trial of cases in Texas to permit such qualified persons who have already obtained a supervised practice card under the previous rules to extend their supervised practice.

Utah

The Supreme Court of Utah issued an order on April 21 for temporary amendments to bar admission procedures. The order modified the bar examination passage requirement on an emergency basis for certain eligible law school graduates: those who graduated between May 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, from an ABA-approved law school that had a first-time taker bar exam passage rate in 2019 of 86% or greater; who had not previously sat for any bar examination in any state or territory in the United States; and who had submitted an application for the Utah Bar Examination on or before April 1, 2020. Such eligible graduates were also required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, pass a criminal background check, submit proof of law school graduation, and complete 360 hours of supervised practice by no later than December 31, 2020. All qualified law school graduates who met these requirements would be admitted to the Utah Bar without passing the Utah Bar Examination.

The Court also canceled the July administration of the bar examination in Utah and announced that it would offer the exam on September 30–October 1.

Vermont

By an April 6 order of the Vermont Supreme Court, the July 2020 administration of the Vermont Bar Examination was postponed to September 9–10. On July 17, the Court issued an order canceling the September administration of the exam and announced that it would administer a remote exam on October 5–6. The order also expands Vermont’s student practice rule by allowing candidates who choose to delay taking the exam until February 2021 to continue to practice as legal interns.

Virginia

On July 10, the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners confirmed its intention to administer the bar examination in July but announced that it would also offer an abbreviated in-person bar exam on September 10. The July exam would be the normal two-day Virginia bar exam, consisting of the Virginia essay exam on day one and the MBE on day two. The exam on September 10 would consist of 9 Virginia essay questions and 10 multiple-choice questions; there would be no MBE component for this one-day exam.

On September 18, the Supreme Court of Virginia amended its Third Year Student Practice Rule to extend the period of supervised practice from 18 to 24 months.

Virgin Islands

The Virgin Islands Supreme Court announced on May 28 that the July 2020 bar examination would be postponed until September 30–October 1. On July 16, the Court issued an order canceling the fall in-person exam and announcing that the Office of Bar Admissions would instead administer a remote exam on October 5–6.

Washington

On May 13, the Washington Supreme Court announced its intention to administer the bar exam as scheduled in July and again on September 9–10.

On May 15, the Washington Supreme Court issued an order temporarily modifying Washington’s Admission and Practice Rules. The temporary modifications include

  1. a change in the minimum passing score from 270 to 266, effective for the July and September 2020 exams only and applying equally to applicants applying for admission by UBE score transfer;
  2. indefinite extension of the term of licensed legal interns; and
  3. modification of the number of licensed legal interns that one active lawyer may supervise at a time to three for private practice and to six for government legal departments and for legal aid or similar programs.

These temporary modifications will remain in effect until December 31, 2021, or until further notice of the Court. The minimum passing score will revert to 270 for the February 2021 bar exam.

The Washington Supreme Court, on June 12, issued an order granting diploma privilege and temporarily modifying admission and practice rules for both lawyers and limited license legal technicians (LLLTs). Applicants for admission to practice law who were currently registered for either the July or September 2020 bar examination and who had received a JD degree from an ABA-accredited law school, and applicants currently registered to take the LLLT examination scheduled for July 2020, were granted the option of receiving a diploma privilege to practice in Washington; this privilege was granted regardless of whether the applicants were first-time test takers or repeaters. The bar exam would still be offered in July and September 2020 for those not qualifying for the diploma privilege and those wishing to take the exam to receive a UBE score.

West Virginia

The West Virginia Board of Law Examiners, with the approval of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, administered the in-person bar examination in July 2020.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin administered the in-person bar examination in July. Graduates of Wisconsin’s two in-state law schools had already been admitted to practice by diploma privilege.

Wyoming

Wyoming administered the in-person bar examination in July and again September 30–October 1.

This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Fall 2020 (Vol. 89, No. 1), pp. 12–24.

Contact us to request a pdf file of the original article as it appeared in the print edition.

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