New York Cancels September Bar Exam

By Susan DeSantis and Brendan Kennedy

July 16, 2020

New York Cancels September Bar Exam


By Susan DeSantis and Brendan Kennedy

New York is canceling the September bar exam to protect the health of the thousands of law school graduates who planned to take the test in the midst of the pandemic, the Board of Law Examiners announced this afternoon.

“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,” it 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.”

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has formed a working group to study alternatives to the Sept. 9-10 bar examination including giving it remotely in October. A decision is expected in early August.

As previously announced, DiFiore has approved a program designed to provide temporary authorization for qualified law graduates to engage in the supervised practice of law. To formally implement the program, the Court has amended its rules, effective July 22.

As provided in the Court’s amended rules, the temporary authorization program is available to all first-time takers of the bar examination employed in New York, including both J.D. and LL.M. candidates, irrespective of their graduation year.

Scott M. Karson, president of the New York State Bar Association, said that the association will be looking for ways that law school graduates can become productive members of the profession.

“In light of the Board of Law Examiners’ decision to cancel the September bar exam, NYSBA will promptly review and make recommendations on how best to proceed.  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, Karson said.

“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.”

Eligible candidates will be able to work under a qualified supervising attorney prior to their admission to the bar and to perform many of the functions of admitted attorneys across the State.

Candidates may remain in the program through their formal admission to the bar, so long as candidates pass their first bar examination no later than 2021 and promptly seek admission to the bar following the release of exam results. The Court’s order can be accessed here.

Application forms and related information can be found on each Department’s website. The Appellate Division will begin processing applications on July 22, when the Court’s amended rules take effect.

Retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard A. Levine is chairing the working group. The group will consider the Uniform Bar Examination and other proposed metrics for bar admission – including a remote bar exam and a diploma privilege, which allows law school graduates to work as attorneys without taking the exam.

This is the second time that the exam had to be postponed. It was first scheduled for July.

New Jersey’s Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced Wednesday that New Jersey would be joining Massachusetts, Maryland, Tennessee, and Washington D.C., in canceling the fall 2020 in-person bar exam and will be offering it remotely.

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