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State bar exam set for July will likely be postponed until September

April 1, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The NYS Bar Association’s Task Force on the New York Bar Exam issued its recommendation this week that the New York Bar Exam, currently scheduled for July, should be postponed and it’s eyeing a date sometime around September instead.

The task force was established last year to look into whether or not the bar exam needs to be changed or updated. Once it appeared that this year’s bar exam could be in jeopardy of being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the task force pivoted to take on this issue.

“Graduating law school students are experiencing high levels of anxiety and distress as their lives and potential livelihoods have been significantly disrupted, and we are focused on making sure that their concerns are being heard and responded to by policymakers,” said NYSBA President Henry Greenberg. “I am deeply grateful to Justice Alan Scheinkman and the members of the task force for working so quickly and diligently on this important matter.”

The hope is that they will be able to reschedule the bar exam to September, a date close to Labor Day, prior to the Jewish holidays at the end of the month. 

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If the bar exam cannot be scheduled for that time period because the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on and the test cannot be administered it recommends that provisions in the government and legal aid organizations be expanded to allow graduates to practice with private sector attorneys and law firms.

Hon. Alan Scheinkman, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department, is the chair of the NYSBA’s Task Force on the Bar Exam. Photo Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

The task force also issued a report on Monday that recommends that law schools waive the limits on how many distance learning credits students can take and still apply to the New York State bar so that students being forced to take classes online are not penalized.

Hon. Alan Scheinkman, the presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department, who chairs the task force, pointed out that some schools have already waived this requirement, but that it is a necessary step to ensure that no students fall through the cracks.

“Some law schools in New York State have already received waivers on the distance learning requirements,” said Justice Scheinkman. “For out-of-state students who plan to practice in New York, it is unfair that they would not get the same relief.”

The task force, which is made up of local bar association leaders, law professors, solo practitioners and other members of the legal community, met this week to discuss the bar exam via videoconferencing. The group is expected to issue a full report to the NYSBA during its annual House of Delegates meeting on April 4. That report will issue a formal recommendation on the upcoming bar exam as well as other changes it thinks should be made to ensure that the exam is helping the legal profession.

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