How COVID-19 is Affecting the Bar Exam and Admission Ceremonies

bar examLast week, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced that it would offer an alternative date for the July bar exam for jurisdictions that cannot or choose to not move forward with the exam this summer due to COVID-19.

The NCBE will decide by May 5 whether there is enough demand from jurisdictions to administer the July bar. In the meantime, it has committed to making materials available for two fall 2020 administrations: September 9-10 and September 30-October 1.

The legal system is dependent on the more than 24,000 law school graduates who begin careers requiring bar admission each year. A delay in licensing during a time of crisis could greatly disrupt this system.

Temporary Supervised Practice Allowance

In weighing possibilities for the July bar exam, legal scholars from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law analyzed six possible alternatives. These included postponement, online exams, administering exams to small groups, emergency diploma privilege, and supervised practice.

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ordered temporary supervised practice in response to the postponement of its July bar exam. Arizona and Tennessee have also expanded supervised practice programs and other states are considering their options. The American Bar Association (ABA) has weighed in, approving a resolution urging states to adopt rules authorizing limited practice with lawyer supervision for recent law school graduates.

Changes are also happening for prospective law students. The Law School Admission Council recently canceled the April 25 LSAT. A pared-down version of the exam will be available to test-takers in late May.

Virtual Admissions Ceremonies

For those who have already passed the bar, bar admission ceremonies are being altered in response to the coronavirus.

In March, the Illinois Supreme Court announced that the bar admission ceremonies typically held in the state’s five judicial districts will be condensed into one statewide swearing-in via video conference. Chief Justice Anne M. Burke will host the ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 7.

Students who are admitted to the bar this May are eligible to participate in the Illinois Supreme Court’s lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program. To learn more about the program visit our website or reach out to Mark Palmer at

Students who are scheduled to sit for the bar this July aren’t yet eligible to participate in the mentoring program. Mentors and mentees must be admitted Illinois attorneys who have sat for the Illinois bar exam or have submitted an application for admission by motion under Rule 705.

If the July Illinois bar exam is canceled or postponed, the Commission will explore an allowance for recent graduates to enroll in the mentoring program.

For information on the status of the bar exam in your jurisdiction, click here.

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