Symbol of law and justice with the Florida state flag in the background. Photo: Lukasz Stefanski/Shutterstock.com
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners has made the decision to move forward with the Florida Bar exam on July 28 and 29. The Florida Supreme Court has approved the plan. That makes Florida the largest jurisdiction to administer the licensing exam in July without offering another test date in September.
New York and California, the two largest bar exam jurisdictions, have both canceled the July exam and rescheduled the test for Sept. 9 and 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. California may offer the exam online. Texas, the third-largest bar examination jurisdiction, said it will offer the exam in both July and September. Illinois has also moved its test to September. Among the other states holding the test in July are Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri.
In 2019, 2,688 people sat for Florida’s July bar exam. This made the examination the fourth largest July test in the country.
The decision was announced on the same day that the National Conference of Bar Examiners said it has received enough interest from jurisdictions that wish to administer the bar exam in July. The National Conference of Bar Examiners stated it will supply July test materials to those who want them.
Student reaction to the decision has been mixed, said University of Florida Levin College of Law dean Laura Rosenbury.
“Many students are ecstatic because they have financial situations that depend on licensure and employment,” she said. “Other students are really concerned. Even though the Florida Board of Bar Examiners has made major changes to how they will administer the exam, we don’t know a foolproof way to prevent the spread of the virus. So we will support students who decide to delay taking the bar.”
Simulated Multistate Bar Examination. Photo and Caption: www.law.com
But some legal educators outside the state have concerns about the plan, including Ohio State University professor Deborah Merritt. She is among a cohort of legal educators advocating for alternative approaches to attorney licensing this year such as emergency diploma privileges, supervised practice programs, and online bar exams.
“Candidates will have to take the exam while wearing masks and worrying about the risk of infection by other test-takers,” Merritt said Wednesday of the Florida plan. “If a single test-taker removes a mask, that will provoke additional stress among those seated in the same room—as well as disruption while proctors expel that test-taker. These are not appropriate conditions for administering a high-stakes exam designed to assess minimum competence.”
Florida is adding a second testing site in July at the Tampa Convention Center, which is the traditional testing site. The July exam will be administered at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando along with the testing in Tampa. Test-takers will be required to wear masks and workers from the Florida Department of Health will screen all examinees, proctors, and administrators before they enter the testing sites.
Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees will not be allowed in.
The test-takers will also be required to sit one person to a table instead of the typical two, with tables at least six feet apart. Candidates will also be required to stand six feet apart while waiting in line. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners also warned that bar takers from outside of Florida may be required to quarantine for 14 days before taking the test, per current state orders.
It is not yet known how bar examiners will accommodate immunocompromised test-takers and those with learning disabilities or severe anxiety who require private testing rooms.
Florida has yet to announce if it will give a second bar exam in September if needed.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.