Florida Bar cancels virtual exam last minute, citing technical concerns

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Board of Bar Examiners decided to cancel a virtual Bar exam scheduled for this Wednesday, citing technical concerns.

This marks the third time the exam has been postponed since the start of the pandemic. Two previously scheduled sessions, including one in Tampa, were canceled to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The Wednesday, Aug. 19 virtual test was thought to be the solution.

However, the board announced late Sunday night that “despite the board’s best efforts to offer a licensure opportunity in August, it was determined that administering a secure and reliable remote bar examination in August was not technically feasible.”

The rescheduled exam will be in October, the announcement said, but did not specify a date.

The postponement has prospective lawyers Julie McHaffie demanding some justice of their own. Via Zoom, the recent Stetson grad showed off the giant stack of index cards she had been studying Sunday night, only to wake up to learn there was no longer an exam to study for.

“Just to pull it out from underneath us, it’s unthinkable,” she said. McHaffie has been studying eight hours a day for the last two months, not to mention spent thousands of dollars on a prep course.

Despite her disappointment, McHaffie pointed out the current remote format was problematic and many peers suffered computer crashes while taking practice exams. Lawmakers voiced similar complaints last week, with some even calling for Florida to adopt “diploma privilege” that would allow law school graduates the licensure to legally practice law.

“We feel like we’re getting punished for saying the software doesn’t work for this exam,” she said. “There are people without jobs right now and cannot be an attorney without this license.”

For now, the Florida Bar plans to launch a “supervised practice program” so grads can work under the guidance of a licensed attorney while waiting to take the exam.

McHaffie says she would settle for something much simpler: an at-home, open-book exam so that she and her peers can just get it over with.

“Make it a level playing field for everyone,” she explained. “Strip down the software and let us just take the exam and be attorneys. The practice of law is open book.”

A test run of the exam for Monday was also canceled.

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