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Ohio Supreme Court Orders 2020 Bar Exam Be Administered Remotely

The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday announced the 2020 bar exam will be conducted remotely. The decision comes after dozens of Ohio law professors sent a petition calling for the change.

Social distancing requirements would mean smaller test groups, said Jonathan Witmer-Rich, a law professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. With the number of students taking the exam, he said, that creates complications.

“If you make the test groups really small, you need a lot of testing locations,” Witmer-Rich said. “Maybe you could do it that way. Logistically, it would be very difficult.”

Students also often need to travel and stay in hotels to take the multi-day exam, he said.

The bar exam was initially slated to take place in July. The Ohio Supreme Court decided in May to delay it until September due to the pandemic. The remote exam is scheduled to take place Oct. 5-6.

Applicants for the September exam will be automatically rolled over to the October exam, the court said in its order. Those who want to opt out of the exam can withdraw the application and will be refunded for the associated fees. Applicants also have the option of transferring to the next exam, set for February 2021.

In a typical year, Witmer-Rich said, results would be available by October. Students usually cannot start work as lawyers until they’ve passed. That delay is cause for some concern, he said.

“A big concern is people not even being able to even start working as lawyers,” Witmer-Rich said. “We don’t even know when the results will be done from that October exam.”

The court has arranged a program for students to gain provisional licenses and begin work under the supervision of a licensed attorney while they wait for the exam. Those provisional licenses can now be extended until the February 2021 exam, or the next available exam, if the student chooses to transfer to that test group.

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