Bar Exam Modifications During COVID-19: 50-State Resources
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, state bar associations in attorney licensing jurisdictions across the country have been revisiting their original plans to administer the bar exam in July 2020. Some states are proceeding with the test as originally scheduled, but are seeking to mitigate risks associated with the virus by limiting exam seating, requiring social distancing and mask use, and mandating that test-takers submit to temperature checks upon entry to testing sites. Many jurisdictions have scheduled a fall exam in addition or as an alternative to the July exam, while others have made the decision to completely cancel the July exam and commit to a September or October testing date. A small number of states are planning to administer the test online, which also generally involves a postponement in order to allow exam administrators time to put an online testing and proctoring system in place. Other states are waiting to see how the pandemic evolves before issuing a final decision regarding July or other exam dates, or offering options other than those listed above.
Along with modifications to test dates and methods, many jurisdictions are creating or expanding existing opportunities for new law school graduates to engage in limited practice under attorney supervision while awaiting bar exam testing opportunities or results.
Click on the states below to learn more about how each licensing jurisdiction is approaching the next 2020 bar exam in light of COVID-19 concerns.
Modifications: On May 8, 2020, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order creating temporary exceptions for July 2020 bar exam applicants allowing them, among other things, to postpone their exam until February 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Applicants are also eligible to function as student interns as defined under the Alabama Rule for Legal Internship by Law Students, which permits third-year law students to work under the supervision of a licensed attorney in Alabama. Applicants can participate as student interns until the date they are admitted to the Alabama State Bar, or the date that February 2021 bar exam results are released, whichever is earlier. The Court also ordered the Alabama State Bar to comply with any public health restrictions that are in force at the time of the July 2020 bar exam.
Modifications: Pursuant to a decision by the Alaska Bar Association, the July 2020 bar exam has been postponed, and additional items that applicants must submit in order to receive a permit to take the exam must be received around mid-August. The Bar Association has also announced that the seat limit for the September 2020 bar exam was reached as of May 6, 2020. The seating limits were implemented due to social distancing requirements associated with COVID-19.
Modifications: Chief Justice Robert Brutinel of the Arizona Supreme Court wrote a letter to 2020 law graduates on April 7, 2020 informing them that the bar exam was still scheduled for July, pending any public health developments that would mandate postponement. If the exam must be rescheduled due to the coronavirus, it would occur in September or October; if it isn’t safe to give the exam at that point, it will be canceled. In the interim, the Court has put forth emergency amendments to Arizona Supreme Court Rule 39(c), which will allow law graduates to engage in limited practice under the supervision of a licensed Arizona attorney. The amended rule was effective May 1, 2020.
Modifications: The Supreme Court of Arkansas has announced plans to administer the bar exam on its originally scheduled date in July, pending COVID-19 developments. If the exam needs to be rescheduled, it will take place in September. The Court will also allow courtesy seating during the July exam for those seeking to obtain a Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) score that they plan to transfer to another state. Applications for courtesy seating will be accepted until June 1, 2020.
Modifications: The California Supreme Court announced that the July 2020 exam has been postponed until September, and that the State Bar should take all possible steps to have it administered online and proctored remotely or electronically. The state will continue to review provisional certification and other options as the coronavirus pandemic evolves.
Modifications: The Colorado bar exam may be postponed to September 30-October 1, 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. If this happens, an emergency rule adopted by the Colorado Supreme Court will take effect on the date of the postponement. Under this rule, an applicant for admission by the Colorado bar exam can apply to become a certified limited practice graduate. The applicant must show that they meet several conditions, including satisfying all the requirements for admission as a Colorado-licensed attorney other than passing the bar exam. The applicant also must have an intent to practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Modifications: In response to coronavirus concerns, the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee has capped total applications for the fall 2020 bar exam at 500. Applications will be accepted only during the month of June. Any applications that were accepted during the initial filing period in March will be transferred automatically to the fall bar exam. Between June 1 and June 12, the Bar Examining Committee will accept applications only from law students who have graduated in the spring of 2020 from Yale Law School, the University of Connecticut School of Law, the Quinnipiac University School of Law, the Western New England University School of Law, or the Massachusetts School of Law. If the 500-application ceiling has not been reached after that phase, other applications will be accepted between June 15 and June 30 on a first-come, first-served basis until the ceiling is reached. The Connecticut Rules Committee also approved a temporary emergency rule on May 11, 2020 expanding the scope of the state’s legal intern rules.
Modifications: None currently, but the Board of Bar Examiners of the Supreme Court of Delaware has stated that it will provide applicants with more information related to any modifications due to COVID-19 as the date approaches.
Modifications: The District of Columbia Court of Appeals will be limiting seating for the fall 2020 bar exam, due to coronavirus concerns. As a result, it is holding a priority registration period for the exam between May 18, 2020 and May 28, 2020. If any seating remains after the priority registration period, the Court of Appeals will arrange for a non-priority registration period. Examinees must wear masks, follow social distancing protocols, and potentially submit to screening measures, such as temperature checks.
Modifications: The Florida Board of Bar Examiners will implement safety precautions related to COVID-19 upon consulting with the Florida Department of Health. These include screening questions, temperature checks, social distancing, and a requirement to wear masks during the exam and when in line to enter or exit the exam site. The Board has chosen to hold the exam at convention centers in Tampa and Orlando to allow for more effective social distancing.
Modifications: Anyone who has graduated from an ABA-accredited law school in the 18 months prior to the bar exam date can apply to the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions for a certificate of provisional admission if they meet certain requirements, such as not having previously failed a bar exam. A provisionally admitted graduate must register with the State Bar of Georgia and identify a Georgia attorney who will supervise them. Lawyers admitted to the bar of another state who plan to sit for the Georgia bar exam also may obtain provisional admission if they meet certain requirements. Provisional admission related to the coronavirus emergency will expire no later than 30 days after the release of the results from the second Georgia bar exam for which the applicant could have sat after seeking provisional admission.
Modifications: The Idaho State Bar has announced that it is reviewing state and national guidance related to the coronavirus so that it can provide a safe testing environment for the bar exam. The State Bar plans to hold the exam in multiple rooms to allow for appropriate social distancing.
Modifications: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Illinois Supreme Court has temporarily relaxed rules related to the Illinois bar exam so that the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar can administer the exam in a way that protects the health of applicants and exam administrators. The final deadline for registering for the bar exam has been extended to June 15, 2020, and other deadlines also have been extended, such as the deadline to submit non-standard testing forms and documents and the administrative accommodation filing deadline.
Modifications: The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners to streamline the Indiana bar exam and administer it online to mitigate coronavirus concerns. The temporary one-day exam will include the Indiana Essay Examination and short answer questions on topics covered by the Multistate Bar Examination. Under a separate Indiana Supreme Court order, any graduate of an ABA-accredited law school who graduated in November 2019 or later and has not sat for any bar exam prior to February 2021 can work as a graduate legal intern until February 28, 2021, or until the results of the February 2021 Indiana bar exam are released if they sit for it.
Modifications: Consistent with an order by the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Office of Professional Regulation may administer the Iowa bar exam on September 8-10, 2020 if the exam cannot be administered in July due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Office of Professional Regulation is no longer accepting hand-delivered applications, but it does not anticipate coronavirus-related delays in processing applications.
Bar Exam Date: July 28-29, 2020 and September 9-10, 2020
Modifications: Responding to coronavirus concerns, the Kansas Supreme Court has decided to offer an alternative September administration of the Kansas bar exam, in addition to the standard July administration, which the Court confirmed on May 14, 2020 that it will offer. However, it appears that the July exam will occur only if administration of the exam complies with any state and local orders and public health guidelines. The Kansas Supreme Court and the Kansas Board of Law Examiners are considering using electronic testing and selecting multiple locations for testing, in contrast to the traditional single location.
Bar Exam Date: July 28-29, 2020 and September 30-October 1, 2020
Modifications: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Kentucky Supreme Court has decided to offer an alternative September administration of the bar exam, in addition to the standard July administration. The administration of the exam will be subject to existing public health restrictions. Examinees may be subject to screening measures, such as temperature checks. Examinees who are not allowed to take the July exam due to health safety protocols will be deferred to September, and examinees who are not allowed to take the September exam due to health safety protocols will be deferred to February 2021.
Modifications: Instead of the standard three-day bar examination, the Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on Bar Admissions will hold two separate one-day bar examinations as a response to coronavirus concerns. The scope of the exam will be reduced to account for the shorter testing time. Seating capacity may be limited to comply with public health guidelines. First-time test takers will receive priority over repeat test takers regarding their preferred date and location. Within each group, priority will depend on the date when the application and fees were received.
Modifications: Seating will be limited due to social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak. The seating that was initially available was filled by early May, but the Maine Board of Bar Examiners made a limited number of additional seats available. These will be assigned during three application periods. The first application period ends on May 22, 2020 and is limited to current 3Ls at Maine Law, as well as 2018 and 2019 graduates of Maine Law. Other graduates of Maine Law and graduates of any other ABA-accredited law schools can apply between May 23, 2020 and June 15, 2020. All other prospective exam takers can apply between June 16, 2020 and July 17, 2020. Hand sanitizer must be used prior to entering and exiting the test site, and examinees may be required to wear masks and submit to temperature checks.
Modifications: The Maryland State Board of Law Examiners will determine no later than May 22, 2020 whether it can hold the Maryland bar exam on the scheduled dates. If the COVID-19 outbreak requires the exam to be postponed, it will be held on September 9-10, 2020. The decision will depend on whether social distancing and group gathering restrictions have been lifted sufficiently to hold the July exam safely.
Modifications: The Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners will administer an alternative bar exam online if an in-person exam is prevented by limitations on gathering size related to the coronavirus pandemic, or if the Board determines that it is impossible to safely administer an in-person exam even while implementing social distancing protocols and other safety measures. While the in-person bar exam would be a Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), the alternative bar exam would be a Massachusetts-only bar exam, but the content would be similar to the content of the UBE. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also has temporarily expanded its student practice rule for graduating law students. This change will make it easier for them to appear in court on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or certain indigent clients without having passed the bar exam.
Modifications: The Michigan Board of Law Examiners will issue a decision confirming the July date above or announcing a postponement related to COVID-19 as soon as possible. It will inform applicants and update its website with its decision. The Board is discussing the situation with the Michigan Supreme Court and other jurisdictions. It will aim to protect health and safety during the coronavirus outbreak while maintaining the integrity of the bar licensure process.
Bar Exam Date: July 28-29, 2020 and September 9-10, 2020
Modifications: In response to the coronavirus emergency, the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners plans to administer a bar exam in September. It has not yet decided whether the September exam will be an alternative or a replacement for the July exam. The Board plans to meet again in mid-May to discuss the situation further. It may add an additional site for the administration of the July exam to accommodate social distancing requirements. Applicants may request a carryover to the February 2021 bar exam at any time.
Modifications: The Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions has stated that it prefers to administer a July bar exam if possible. Otherwise, it will administer the exam at the earliest safe opportunity permitted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Board will update its website and notify applicants and law schools when it decides. It will aim to protect health and safety while preserving the integrity of the bar licensure process.
Modifications: The Missouri Board of Law Examiners will hold the Missouri bar exam on September 9-10, 2020 if it cannot be safely administered on the July dates. If the exam proceeds in July, the Board will apply CDC guidelines in determining who may be safely admitted into the testing area. Seating capacity may be limited and applications capped to comply with restrictions on gathering size under public health directives. Meanwhile, the Missouri Supreme Court has extended the certification period provided by its law student practice rule during the coronavirus emergency.
Bar Exam Date: July 28-29, 2020 and September 9-10, 2020
Modifications: Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Nebraska State Bar Commission is offering an alternative September bar exam in addition to the July exam. If the Nebraska Supreme Court determines that the July exam cannot be held, an additional alternative exam will be offered on September 30-October 1, 2020. The State Bar Commission will comply with State Directed Health Measures and other public health directives in administering the exams.
Modifications: The Nevada Board of Bar Examiners is continuing its preparations for the July 2020 exam, but is evaluating whether to hold the exam due to COVID-19. A final decision will be made no later than May 22, 2020.
Modifications: The Supreme Court of New Hampshire ordered that the July 2020 bar exam be postponed to September 9-10, 2020 due to coronavirus concerns. Places for the exam will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis due to space limitations. Applicants should monitor the bar admissions general information page for updates.
Modifications: The July bar exam has been rescheduled to Sept. 9-10, 2020 in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. This date is tentative and subject to public health conditions later this year. Registration is currently open for the September exam. On April 6, 2020 the Supreme Court of New Jersey issued an order that temporarily relaxes court rules to allow 2020 law school graduates who have not yet taken the bar exam to practice law under the supervision of attorneys. Requirements that must be satisfied in order to practice include sitting for the first bar examination scheduled after graduation (e.g. September 2020).
Bar Exam Date: September 2020 (specific dates to be announced)
Modifications: On April 28, 2020, the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered that the July 2020 bar examination be postponed to September 2020 because of the novel coronavirus. The court also ordered that a working group develop a proposal for a temporary, alternative practice program that would provide a limited, supervised opportunity for legal practice by applicants who are waiting for an opportunity to take a bar examination in the event that the September 2020 bar exam is canceled.
Modifications: The New York administration of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) scheduled for July has been postponed to September 9-10, 2020 due to COVID-19. Seating capacity will be limited due to coronavirus considerations and the application process will be conducted on a rolling basis as space permits. There was an initial application period from May 5-15, 2020, and was limited to J.D. and LL.M. candidates who are sitting for the bar exam for the first time and graduated (or will graduate in Spring 2020) from one of the fifteen law schools located in New York State. The application process will be opened to a larger pool of candidates if seating remains available after this initial application period. On April 28, 2020, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore approved a program that will allow qualified law school graduates who will be taking the bar exam for the first time to temporarily engage in the limited practice of law under the supervision of an experienced attorney in good standing.
Modifications: There are no current plans to postpone the July 2020 bar exam, but the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners (NCBLE) is continuing to monitor developments. Due to COVID-19, the postmark deadline for submission of Petitions for Special Testing Accommodations and supporting medical and testing documentation has been extended to May 19, 2020. The NCBLE has stated that it intends to administer the exam on September 9-10, 2020 if the July 2020 examination isn’t held.
Modifications: The North Dakota State Board of Law Examiners (BLE) announced that it intends to administer the July exam as scheduled. If the July exam cannot be administered due to COVID-19, the BLE intends to host an exam on September 9-10, 2020. The number of examinee slots for the July 2020 exam is currently limited to 85, which will be assigned based on the following priority order: (1) individuals already registered as of April 1, 2020, (2) University of North Dakota graduates, and (3) other applicants. There is an existing rule in North Dakota that allows for the temporary practice of law in the state by law school graduates under certain circumstances.
Modifications: The Supreme Court of Ohio announced that it is rescheduling the July bar exam to September 9-10, 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Applications for the July bar exam will automatically be transferred to the September exam. Additional information will be announced regarding the September bar exam, and the Practice Pending Admission during the Admission to the Practice of Law Process has been expanded for recent law school graduates.
Modifications: The Oklahoma bar exam will take place in July as scheduled. Additional public health protocols will be instituted for this exam, including social distancing and temperature checks. Information regarding this exam, including testing conditions, will be sent via e-mail to all registered applicants by June 1, 2020. Any registered July 2020 examinee who does not wish to take the July 2020 exam may request a deferral to the next available exam administration date.
Modifications: The Oregon bar exam will take place in July as scheduled. However, due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements and public gathering restrictions, the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners has made a number of changes to its plan for administering the July exam. Under the new plan there is a maximum capacity of 500 applicants, which will be assigned on a first-come/first-serve basis, based on the time and date an application was received by the bar. As of May 11, 2020, the bar has received approximately 435 applications for the July exam. The bar will host an exam in the fall if the July exam is postponed or if there are a significant number of applicants for the July exam who are unable to be tested due to space or regulatory restrictions.
Modifications: On April 28, 2020 the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners announced that the July 2020 bar exam has been rescheduled to September 9-10, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with an application deadline of May 30, 2020. Candidates who have applied for the July exam are automatically registered for the September date. In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved a limited license program that allows July 2020 bar exam applicants to temporarily practice law under the supervision of an experienced lawyer.
Modifications: On April 13, 2020, the Rhode Island Supreme Court announced that the July 2020 bar exam has been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. The court also suspended the May 1 application deadline while it evaluates the impact of the public health crisis on the bar admission process. The court stated that it expects to issue an order on this subject soon.
Modifications: On May 6, 2020, the South Dakota Supreme Court issued an order that states that if the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) doesn't provide materials for the July exam, the South Dakota Board of Bar Examiners is authorized to develop and offer a 10-question essay exam on July 28, 2020 as a replacement. Only applicants who filed a bar exam application postmarked on or before May 1, 2020 would be eligible to take this essay exam. July bar exam applicants may choose to take the February 2021 bar exam instead of the essay exam. If the South Dakota Board of Bar Examiners cancels the July bar exam due to COVID-19, it is authorized by the South Dakota Supreme Court to administer the bar exam on the next available dates that the NCBE makes its materials available, and that are consistent with public health considerations. In its May 6, 2020 order, the South Dakota Supreme Court also amended the existing program that allows law students and graduates to work under the supervision of a licensed attorney until they are able to take the bar exam and obtain their results. The amendment potentially extends the time available in this program for applicants of the July 2020 bar exam.
Bar Exam Date: July 28-29, 2020 and September 30 - October 1, 2020
Modifications: Tennessee will administer the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) in Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville in July and in Knoxville in October. Due to COVID-19, there will be reduced seating capacity for the July exam and a set of seating priorities has been established to fill the available slots. Applicants who cannot be seated at the July exam will be seated at the October exam, or can choose to transfer their application to the February 2021 exam. Applicants who want to take the exam in October must apply using the July 2020 exam application and comply with July exam deadlines and application requirements. In addition, on April 2, 2020, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order that: (1) temporarily extends the amount of time certain July 2020 bar exam applicants can practice law under supervision or pending admission, (2) temporarily extends the expiration of qualifying August 2018 or November 2018 MPRE scores for July 2020 bar exam applicants, and (3) permits concurrent applications so July 2020 bar exam applicants may transfer UBE scores.
Bar Exam Date: July 28-30, 2020 and September 9-11, 2020
Modifications: On May 6, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an order stating that the Texas Board of Bar Examiners should offer a bar exam in July and September. Applicants for the July bar exam have additional options: they can withdraw their registration or they can choose to take the exam in September or at a future date. Seating for the July 2020 bar exam will be limited as needed to implement social distancing and other safety requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic. Seating will be prioritized based on registration date. The final filing deadline for registering for the July 2020 bar exam has been extended to 11:59 p.m. on June 1, 2020. In its order of May 6, 2020, the Court also adopted updated rules that allow law students and graduates to participate in the limited practice of law in Texas under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Bar Exam Date: The July 2020 bar exam has been canceled. Possible dates under consideration are September 9-10, 2020 or September 30-October 1, 2020.
Modifications: On April 21, 2020, the Utah Supreme Court issued an order that canceled the July 2020 bar exam due to COVID-19, and provided an alternative one-time option for licensure for certain July 2020 exam applicants. Requirements of this new option include performing 360 hours of legal practice under the supervision of an experienced attorney, and an applicant must have either graduated from a law school that had an overall first-time bar passage rate of 86% or greater in 2019 (from all bar examinations, not just the Utah exam), or currently be in good standing and licensed in another jurisdiction.
Modifications: As of May 1, 2020, the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners has stated that it remains committed to administering the bar exam in July 2020. Applicants are urged to monitor the Board’s website for updates. Due to the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Board has modified some of the requirements (such as the notarization of documents) for the July 2020 bar exam application.
Bar Exam Date: July 28-29, 2020 and September 9-10, 2020
Modifications: On May 13, 2020, the Washington Supreme Court announced that the bar exam will be administered on July 28-29, 2020 and September 9-10, 2020, in both the Seattle/Tacoma/Everett area and the Spokane area. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, applicants who have filed an application to take the July 2020 bar exam will have the option to take the exam in either July or September. Public health protocols such as social distancing will be instituted for these exams. Wasington also offers a “Licensed Legal Interns” program whereby law school graduates can practice law under the supervision of a lawyer who has at least three years of active legal experience.
Modifications: None, as Wisconsin does not offer a bar exam. Graduates of the two law schools in Wisconsin (University of Wisconsin and Marquette) can be admitted to the practice of law in the state by demonstrating their legal competence through academic requirements outlined in Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules 40.03.
Modifications: There are no current plans to postpone the July 2020 bar exam due to COVID-19, but applicants are urged to monitor the Wyoming State Bar Admissions website for updates. On April 10, 2020, the Wyoming Supreme Court issued an order implementing a practice pending admission rule which will allow bar exam applicants who have satisfied the requirements of the rule to practice under the supervision of a licensed member of the Wyoming State Bar while waiting for their exam results. This rule will only apply if the July 2020 bar exam is postponed.