Illinois bar exam delayed again, will be held remotely in October due to coronavirus concerns
Law students will take the exam online in October, but the delay means recent graduates are being asked to put the start of their careers on hold again.
The state’s bar exam will be delayed for a second time and held remotely in early October because of health concerns over the “once-in-a-generation” coronavirus pandemic, the Illinois Supreme Court announced Thursday,
The exam, which is held twice a year, was first delayed in July and pushed to Sept. 9 and 10. The exam will now be held online between Oct. 5 and 6.
The higher court reached its decision after its “close and frequent contact” with the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, which was “monitoring the ever-evolving science and guidelines as the nation, state, and local authorities navigate this once-in-a-generation pandemic.”
Previously, the board had advocated to hold the exam in-person and released safety protocols for test-takers, including mandated mask wearing and social distancing.
But the board also warned those taking the test, that “By attending the examination, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”
In the past, the exams have been conducted in large rooms that accommodate up to 1,000 test-takers, according to Nancy Vincent, the board’s director of administration.
On Thursday, the admissions board said it revised its recommendation to the court due to “public health concerns and seating limitations.”
“It was always our position that details could change based on new factors,” Vincent said Thursday. “We carefully watched all metrics, and kept the Court informed.”
Rowland Edwards, who graduated from Loyola University’s School of Law in May, said the higher court’s decision put him and his peers in a tough position.
“It was forcing people to choose their career over their health,” Edwards, 25, said. After three years of law school, some students already having accepted offers for work, so “most people would end up choosing their career,” he said.
Edwards had accepted a position with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and had expected to start in August. When the bar exam was delayed in July, his start date was pushed to December. Now, he’s not sure if he’ll be able to work as a prosecutor this year, or if the position will still be available to him.
“This was definitely a life accomplishment for me,” Edwards, of Edgewater, said of the job offer. “The feeling of uncertainty around all this has been really hard.”
Before Thursday’s announcement, some law students had petitioned for a “diploma privilege,” which would allow for them to start working without taking the exam.
The state supreme court denied that request last week.
Other states that have also opted for remote bar exam testing this year include Ohio, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Tennessee, the American Bar Association Journal reported.