Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 14

FEATURE
people register on the first day. That has never happened before," says
Shela Shanks, director of the court's Committee on Admissions and the
Unauthorized Practice of Law.

Blackburne-Rigsby. Soon after, the court reached reciprocity agreements
with Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont, with
more jurisdictions possibly to come.

The volume was so high that the court had to pause the application
process on May 18. "I was one of those unfortunate students who
attempted to register on the first day that registration opened," recalls
Caroline Sessions, another recent graduate of the George Washington
University Law School. "I encountered an alert that registration was
closed and would potentially reopen."

"We were glad that the remote option provided the court with the
opportunity to license all D.C. applicants given its determination that
it could not administer the in-person bar exam," says Judith Gundersen,
president and CEO of the NCBE. The NCBE develops and produces the
licensing tests used by most U.S. jurisdictions for admission to the bar,
including the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay
Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The NCBE
also develops the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
(MPRE) required for bar admission in most U.S. jurisdictions.

Faced with the double whammy of high registrations and increasing
health and safety concerns, the D.C. Court of Appeals decided that the
bar exam will be conducted online using materials prepared by the
National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). However, while the
October virtual exam will cover the same topics as the standard UBE,
it was originally announced that the scores would not be transferable
to other jurisdictions.
On July 10, however, the D.C. Court of Appeals announced that it
had reached an agreement with Maryland and Massachusetts to allow
portability of non-UBE scores, a concept proposed by Chief Judge

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BAR EXAM
The Delaware colony created the country's first bar exam in 1763
as an oral examination before a judge. Three decades later, in 1793,
the College of William & Mary became the first U.S. university to
grant a bachelor of law degree. Harvard University followed in
1820 with the LLB degree.
In 1885, Massachusetts was the first state to administer a written
bar exam, which consisted of essays. Prior to that, practicing
lawyers built their skills through apprenticeships, oral exams, and
self-studying. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE)
was formed in 1931 to promote fairness, integrity, and best practices in admission to the legal profession for the benefit and protection of the public.
First given in February 1972, the Multistate Bar Examination was
created to increase efficiency of grading and better ensure fairness.
Three years later, California became the first state to introduce
a Professional Responsibility Examination, which was later adopted
by other states as the Multistate Professional Responsibility
Examination. In July 1988, the NCBE established the Multistate
Essay Examination, which now consists of six 30-minute questions.
The Multistate Performance Test arrived in 1997, consisting of two
90-minute skills questions designed to test one's ability to apply
the law in realistic situations.
In 2010, Missouri and North Dakota became the first states to
adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). Supporters argued that it would
avoid the cost of taking another bar exam after moving from one
state to another. They also believed that it could address concerns
regarding implicit bias against historically underrepresented groups
in bar admission. As of June 2020, 37 U.S. jurisdictions, including the
Virgin Islands, have adopted the UBE.

14

WASHINGTON LAWYER

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

"In offering a remote option, we were trying to be proactive to jurisdiction needs, depending on how the COVID crisis could impact local conditions and the ability to test in person," Gundersen adds.

CHALLENGES OF ONLINE TESTING
For bar applicants like West, the D.C. Court of Appeals' June announcement only raised more concerns. "I was glad that there was some clarity
and, hopefully, some finality in terms of there being no more delays," she
says. "But it made me think that if it was going to be online in October,
why couldn't it have been online in July?"
West is also concerned about whether the online test will be glitchfree by the time it's rolled out in October. "It usually takes months and
months of testing a software before it's issued. I just fear further delays
because the online exam can't be developed within that short amount
of time."
Another worry for bar examinees is finding a secure space with limited
distractions to take the exam. Sharing an apartment or house with other
people or having a dicey Wi-Fi connection can greatly impact one's
ability to concentrate. NCBE's Gundersen agrees that online testing raises
equity concerns. "Millions of Americans still do not have access to reliable
internet service, which is necessary with remote testing systems to,
at minimum, verify identity at the beginning of the exam and upload
answers at the end of the exam," Gundersen says. "Additionally, [some]
candidates' computers may not meet certain equipment requirements"
such as webcam capability.
Joni Wiredu, director of academic excellence at American University
Washington College of Law, has questions about what the exam is going
to look like and how bar examinees will adapt to the transition. "We are
still not 100 percent sure on things like whether or not graduates will
have access to scratch paper, which is important because up until this
point we have been teaching them to underline, circle, and annotate
certain things," Wiredu says. "The things that they would normally be
doing pen to paper, now they are going to have to adjust and do
these things online. There is also a part of the exam where you literally
have to manipulate back and forth with the material. So, the question
becomes, how do you do that with one screen? Some graduates might
have multiple screens. So will the rules limit the number of screens they
can use?"
There's also the issue of proctoring an online bar exam and how to prevent
cheating. "The proctoring will be up to the jurisdictions," Gundersen says,
adding that states work with various vendors to upload the essays.



Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
ABA Delegates Corner
Calendar of Events
Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
The New Normal in Legal Education feature
On Shaky Ground feature
How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Speaking of Ethics
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The New Normal in Legal Education feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Shaky Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover4
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