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New York cancels September bar exam

New York cancels September bar exam
© OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

New York’s Board of Law Examiners has canceled the state bar exam, which was set to be administered Sept. 9-10, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

“In light of accelerating public health concerns and continuing governmental restrictions, the Board of Law Examiners has concluded that an in-person bar exam cannot be safely administered on September 9-10, 2020,” bar officials wrote. “Participants’ health and safety must remain our top priority and, because conditions have not sufficiently improved, the September exam has been canceled.”

“The Board arrived at this decision after careful consideration of current conditions and with a singular focus on the health and safety of all participants,” New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the global pandemic presents a persisting threat in a growing number of states and therefore, at this juncture, an in-person exam is not yet a safe or practical option in New York.”

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The New York Court of Appeals had previously pushed the exam back from July to the fall, and in June approved an arrangement in which qualified graduates could receive temporary licenses and work under the supervision of a licensed attorney.

Several other states have circumvented the pandemic by instead offering the bar exam online for the first time, including Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland and Nevada, while others, including Oregon, Utah and Washington, will grant some graduates “diploma privileges,” under which graduates of law school can practice without taking the exam.

DiFiore has empaneled a working group to determine next steps of the state bar exam, with chairman Howard Levine, a retired Court of Appeals judge, and others weighing whether to offer options such as remote exams or diploma privileges, she announced Thursday.

“The class of 2020 has been dealt a difficult hand and many graduates are experiencing stress and strain over the uncertainty surrounding the bar exam, a grim job market, and staggering student debt,” Scott Karson, president of the New York State Bar Association, said in a statement, according to Bloomberg. “NYSBA will expeditiously examine the alternatives, taking into account the interests of consumers of legal services as well as the law school graduates seeking admission to the New York bar.”