COVID-19 has put a new spin on the legal profession. Lawyers and those seeking admission to the State Bar of California are in the position of untangling a huge web of uncertainty. Law and order have a new meaning these days. Although it seems we are treading in unchartered waters, really the mechanics of successful admission to the profession remains relatively unchanged.
Let’s go back to January or February when things were “normal”. Practicing attorneys were planning to take the California Bar Examination in July, and those who sat for the exam in February were awaiting results in May. To that end, not much has changed. February 2020 Bar results came out in early May, and all prospective candidates were granted the gift of an additional month to study in preparation for the upcoming September 2020 California Bar Exam. As stated in prior posts, we always knew that the exam would go on; albeit under a slightly modified environment.
Just a few weeks ago the State Bar of California submitted a working plan to the State Supreme Court outlining possible scenarios for the administration of the exam. Whether the exam is administered in person or remotely, the preparation for the exam remains exactly the same. The California Bar Exam was never a group effort, and success on this exam is entirely dependent on individual preparation and performance. The best results on this exam came from those who even before COVID-19 socially distanced themselves and engaged in a bar exam prep quarantine.
Much talk surrounds the low pass rate in California, and in an attempt to appease the complainers the State Bar last year took a look at whether the cut score in California should change. The ultimate conclusion, after much debate, was that again, the California Bar Exam remains unchanged. Just a few weeks ago the State Board of Trustees partnered with the Supreme Court to establish a Blue-Ribbon Commission on the future of the California Bar Exam. The details of the May 11th meeting can be found here:
Even this joint effort does not point to changing the current bar exam. We have hundreds of thousands of attorneys licensed in the State of California. All of them took and passed the California Bar Examination. The key to success was always and remains in how to prepare. In addition to individualized instruction, and a detailed study schedule, here are few things to help you adapt to a changed environment:
1. You may be required to wear a protective mask during the exam. Masks were awkward and uncomfortable a few months back, but we are adapting. Wear a mask while you are taking practice tests and find a mask that is comfortable.
2. Prepare for unanticipated disruption. Recently the College Board administered its first round of online tests. Many students experienced technical issues, and many were unable to upload their completed exams. Technology is not an exact science, but the State Bar of California will ensure an even playing field. Expect a few hiccups.
3. Study in silence. Should California not be able to administer an in-person exam, you will most likely take the test in an isolated space. You might think quiet is the best environment, but you are probably unaware of background noise such as others breathing, the rustling of paper, and even sound of fingers on a keyboard. Vary your study atmosphere a bit.
4. Study for a longer period of time. The next California Bar exam is now scheduled for September 9th. This gives prospective applicants well over 6 more weeks to study. You should absolutely take advantage of this extra time.
Most of us are working from home and are trying to strike a delicate balance between our professional life and our home life. Somehow, we are busier than ever before, and days easily turn into weeks. Do not fool yourself in thinking you we be able to cut ties with your home life in favor of your bar exam studies. Use the extra time to your advantage.
Even though we are all trying to adapt to a changing environment, the Bar Exam is a constant.
Best of luck to all September applicants.