Florida's July Bar Exam Will Be Held Remotely

By Nathan Hale
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Law360 (April 12, 2021, 4:41 PM EDT) -- The Florida Board of Bar Examiners said Monday it will administer the bar exam scheduled for July 27-28 remotely after the Florida Supreme Court granted approval to do so.

FBBE Executive Director Michele Gavagni confirmed that the decision was made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The July exam will mark the third held remotely in the Sunshine State due to the public health crisis.

The news came the same day that results were released from the Feb. 23-24 exam, in which 1,854 applicants took the test remotely using ExamSoft Worldwide software. The board said it intends to use the same software it used for that exam and one in October.

The two-day exam will consist of two parts: a Florida-prepared portion consisting of three essay questions and 100 multiple-choice questions, and the Multistate Bar Examination, which has 200 multiple-choice questions, according to the announcement.

Applicants must have access to the necessary technology, including a computer with a webcam and an internet connection to allow for proctoring, the FBBE said. Applicants are also responsible for installing the ExamSoft software themselves, the board said.

The bar exam has only been offered remotely in Florida since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, with the FBBE successfully administering the exams in October and February after two delays and hiccups with the initial software it selected.

The in-person exam that had been scheduled for July 28-29 last year was scrapped on July 1 as Florida grappled with a dramatic upswing in COVID-19 cases. Then, the rescheduled Aug. 19 exam was canceled after the ILG Technologies Inc. testing software was plagued with problems.

In late August, the FBBE announced a narrowed scope for the October exam, which tested roughly half of the subjects applicants would typically have to study.

Applicants reported that the ExamSoft software was an improvement over ILG Technologies' software, but there were still some issues during mock examinations. Some users were able to access other files on their computers while taking mock exams, which would potentially allow test-takers to cheat, while Black applicants said the facial recognition software could not register darker faces.

For the October exam, the FBBE set up two backup plans in case the ExamSoft software failed, but the board was ultimately able to administer the test successfully.

The Florida Supreme Court also set up a temporary program that allowed some applicants to work under the supervision of a licensed attorney until one month after the release of the February 2021 bar exam results.

Monday's announcement did not mention any extension of that program.

In a separate announcement, the FBBE said Monday that the Florida Supreme Court had approved bar admission for 502 of the 1,854 applicants who took the remote bar exam in February. Remote ceremonies will be hosted by the state's five District Courts of Appeal on May 3 to swear in the new members.

--Additional reporting by Carolina Bolado. Editing by Aaron Pelc.

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