Law Students—Still Preparing to Wait

August 5th, 2020 by

Back in June, we posted a blog about the Illinois Supreme Court postponing the bar exam to September 9 and 10, 2020. Since posting that blog, there has been an update to the Illinois bar exam. 

One of the problems raised in our earlier blog was the uncertainty of job prospects, as those waiting to take the bar exam could not receive legal field experience until they were actually sworn in as an attorney. The Illinois Supreme Court modified the Illinois Supreme Court Rules in order to somewhat remedy the situation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois law students (or graduates who met certain requirements) were able to practice with a student license under the supervision of a licensed attorney pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 711. On July 2, 2020 the Illinois Supreme Court expanded Rule 711 to add an entire temporary provision relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this temporary provision, the following individuals are eligible for the COVID-19 related accommodations, so long as they have not taken a bar exam in any jurisdiction, but have completed all educational requirements to be eligible to take the bar exam, and have submitted an application to take the September 2020 or February 2021 bar examinations: all December 2019 and 2020 graduates of law schools ABA accredited law schools; and Juris Doctor graduates of ABA accredited law schools from prior years who have been serving as judicial law clerks since their graduation. This will allow eligible graduates to obtain some experience while being forced to wait to take the exam. 

Additionally, on July 23, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court announced that the Illinois bar exam was being once again postponed to October 5-6, 2020. Originally, when the bar exam was being postponed to September 9-10, 2020, it was still being administered as a Uniform Bar Exam, meaning that the score earned may be portable to other states who utilize the Uniform Bar Exam. However, if the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar and other states are able to arrange for reciprocity with other states administering the questions prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, then exam takers may be able to utilize their score to become barred in another state. The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar has been providing updates on their website, and any questions regarding the same should be directed to them. 

Hopefully, Illinois does not join other states who have had issues with their bar exams thus far. On July 28, 2020, Michigan administered its bar exam online, utilizing the ExamSoft software. Applicants were required to access a website to obtain passwords in order to access each module. Before the second module was to start, applicants could not access the website. Luckily, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners accommodated the test takers to ensure everyone had ample time to finish the test.

Additionally, on July 24, 2020, Indiana was testing the online program it was going to use to administer the bar exam, and unfortunately, it fell short of expectations. It was determined shortly before the exam was set to begin on July 28, 2020, that the exam was being pushed back a week, to August 4, 2020, and that same would be administered via email. Applicants would receive the questions via email, and be required to return the same via email.

This bar exam is certainly unprecedented. Things are constantly changing in each state, so if you are currently signed up to take a bar exam, you should consult your state’s Supreme Court orders and Board of Bar Examiner’s news and press releases for more information. 

Written by Kelli M. Lardi

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