Louisiana allows law grads to take bar exam online 'with no live monitoring or proctoring'

The Louisiana Supreme court is allowing applicants to take the bar exam remotely and with open book access.

Louisiana is not the first state to make changes to the bar exam.

In early August, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered that recent law graduates who had registered for the August and October bar exams be able to take it remotely and have open book access.

According to NOLA.com, the decision was made because of the coronavirus pandemic and concerns of spreading the virus. The order stated that "the pandemic conditions continue to prevent a large-scale in-person examination of all applicants currently registered for the exam and does not wish to delay the examination any further.”  

"The August 24, 2020 and October 10, 2020 remote bar examinations will be in open-book format, with no live monitoring or proctoring. Applicants will receive the exam questions by email and submit responses by email, to an address established by the Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on Bar Admissions. Applicants may use outside materials to complete the exam but are prohibited from seeking or accepting assistance from any other individual during the exam," the order stated.

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This order would allow test takers to be able to access outside information such as their textbooks, notes, and the internet while taking the test but students would not be allowed to get outside help from another person. The court said that the exam will not be proctored and, instead, conducted through email because the current software is “not feasible,” according to Chief Justice Bernette Johnson.

Though this order seems controversial, Ken Levy, a lawyer and law professor at Louisiana State University thinks otherwise.

"Past bar-exam takers did not have to get through their last semesters of law school, study for the bar, and take the bar during a pandemic. I also think that the supposed advantage of open-book access is highly exaggerated," Levy told Campus Reform.

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He went on to explain that he is a proponent of having open book access on the bar-exam because, “a good legal education is not about memorizing concepts, statutes, and cases but rather about learning how to apply these three things to new fact patterns.” He also says that he allows his students to have open book and internet access on tests because he, “want(s) my exams to resemble practice as much as possible, and I have never heard of a situation in which a lawyer was prohibited from using her books, notes, or the internet.”

Another law professor at Louisiana State University, Lee Ann Wheelis Lockridge, also agrees that hosting this exam remotely and giving applicants access to outside sources is fair.

“The changed format for 2020, which converts all applicants taking the exam to an open-book format, is not unfair to anyone. It would indeed be unfair if one group of persons taking this year’s reconfigured examination had access to materials while another group of persons taking the same exam did not, but that is not the situation here," Lockridge told Campus Reform. "All persons who are taking the upcoming 2020 examinations in order to obtain their Louisiana licenses are taking the exams on the same basis."

When asked if she had a suggestion for a more efficient way of hosting the bar exam given the current pandemic, she explained that the online format is the best plan during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The deans of the four Louisiana law schools worked diligently with the Court and the Committee on Bar Admissions to enable the Court and the Committee to maintain the July and October exams in their preferred in-person format, which had been scheduled to take place primarily within our facilities as a COVID-19-related accommodation to spread examinees between facilities and create greater distancing, but, as we now know, the COVID-19 positivity rate escalated so significantly in Louisiana by mid-July that the Court determined it would be unwise to continue with that plan,"  Lockridge said.

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Though bar applicants have a more relaxed format for this exam, they will still have to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination and other requirements to be able to practice law within the state of Louisiana.

Other states have also made modifications to the way the bar exam will be administered during the pandemic. 

For instance, Arkansas gave its exam in July but allowed those who were uncomfortable sitting in the exam room due to possible health concerns to temporarily practice law in a limited format. Georgia also announced that the bar exam will be postponed and held online in early October and it will allow recent law graduates to practice law for a temporary time.