Photo of the Florida State Capitol Building in Tallahassee, FL, USA on May 3, 2020. Photo: Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock.com
A protest has been planned for Wednesday, August 19 by several law students in Florida. The reason being is due to the Florida Bar Examination being cancelled once again. This is the third time this summer the bar exam has been postponed. Today would have been a momentous day for many would-be lawyers across Florida, but unfortunately, that will have to be out on the back burner again due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This does not stop would-be law school students from taking matters into their own hands.
Despite the well-meaning intention of trying to stop the spread of the virus, the students still plan to protest what they call a “systemc failure” to administer the test or to notify examinees in a timely manner. The notification of said cancellation of the Florida Bar exam came in the form of an email Sunday night that stemmed from “technical glitches” within the online software being provided by ILG Technologies of Missouri. This gave the graduates barely 48 hours notice before taking the exam.
Because of this, lawsuits are also expected to follow. Many law school graduates plan to sue the Florida Board of Bar Examiners (FBBE) and the Florida Supreme Court due to this third postponement of the bar exam without timely notice.
The move has now cost law school grads thousands of dollars in test fees, prep courses and missed work time taken to study. Central Florida attorney Ravin Sahadeo said some are now facing $15,000 in debt in addition to law school tuition. The test had already been moved once, from July to August.
It was moved yet again, being delayed an additional 24 hours because it fell on the day of Florida’s primary election.
Soon after the late-night announcement, hundreds of prospective test-takers took to social media to voice their frustrations. “It’s been a roller coaster we’ve been on since April, and we still haven’t been able to get off,” said Bianca Baez, a 2019 graduate of the Florida State College of Law. “We’ve deserve more, we’ve been studying for so long,” she said, talking from her home, surrounded by several whiteboards covered side-to-side with notes for the exam. “We have felt a little bit hopeless, a little voiceless this whole process.”
So far, two solutions have been proposed in a letter to the board and the Florida Supreme Court by Democratic state Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith of central Florida. The Florida Supreme Court oversees admission to the bar.The first solution offered was to be able to take the test online. The other is to give diploma privilege to the examinees. This bar exam would have been the first online-only bar exam due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diploma privilege will allow the graduates to be able to be granted a license to practice without having to take the state bar exam, pending their grades are high enough.
A change.org petition was started on Monday, August 17, calling on the leadership of the FBBE to resign. The petition was started in the early hours of the afternoon and was able to obtain more than 1,300 signatures in just a few hours.
According to the FBBE, the new, tentative test date for the Florida Bar examination has been scheduled for sometime in October, and law school grads have the option of practicing with supervision from licensed attorneys. Hopeful examinees are anticipating a faster testing process and even diploma privilege.