July 2021 Bar Exam in-person v. online update
Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski (Ret.) is the Director of Supply, Production & Distribution of Operation Warp Speed. He said in a TV interview today that vaccines will roll out over several months. He said that “100% of Americans that want the vaccine will have vaccine by that point in time [June 2021]. We will have 300 million doses will be available to the American public well before then.”
I’m a lawyer, not a medic, and not a public health expert. I know that there are anti-vaxxers out there. So the question is this: if Lt. Gen. Ostrowski is correct and millions of Americans (not all of course) are taking the available vaccines, will that persuade Governors to allow in-person bar exams for July 2021?
I’d still put the odds at 50/50, if not worse for the following reasons. If vaccines will be available in June 2021, people need to take them and that takes time. Then a Governor needs to see that all that vaccinating is going on. Then more time will go by and a Governor will need to make a decision. And if the logistics behind an in-person exam require that certain things must occur by April or May to make a July Bar Exam happen — not saying that’s true, I don’t know — then June vaccine availability will be too late to make an in-person exam happen.
As of November 30, 2020, it seems that a remote exam for July 2021 seems more likely.
One other thing to keep in mind. What is the prevailing sentiment from the Cal. Supreme Court about remote v. in-person exams? From the Cal Bar? Maybe the Cal Bar says we’ve saved tons of money from room rental fees (though I doubt it since applicant fees are presumably paying for all of that) or saved time/money for other logistics that they are happy with a remote testing environment and don’t want to change it?
Or what if students like the idea of not having to go outside of their house to take the exam? What if they like taking a rest between questions or not having to get a hotel or fly somewhere (especially for out of state or international students) to take the test? What’s the prevailing sentiment?
My guess is that the Cal SCT and the Cal Bar like the idea of the old status quo. Maybe some students with necessary accommodations might be able to take the exam from home? But otherwise, I’m confident that we’ll be back to an in-person exam environment for sure by February 2022. July 2021? Maybe. I would think it’s likely if vaccines were widely distributed by March 1 or so and that people took them and positivity rates dramatically declined by April 1. That might give enough incentive to a Governor to allow in-person testing and allow a Board of Bar Examiners enough time to logistically make it happen.
We shall see!