Just last week, we reported on efforts by the California State Bar Board of Trustees to persuade the California Supreme Court to postpone the state’s bar exam, which had been scheduled for July 2020. 

Those efforts proved successful two days ago, when Jorge Navarrete, the Clerk and Executive Officer of the California Supreme Court, issued a letter on behalf of the court stating that the bar exam would be postponed September of this year.  The letter specifically credits the submissions and comments of stakeholders such as the Board of Trustees and students and faculty of California law schools as the motivations for its decision.  The letter from the court acknowledges the “enormous challenges this public health crisis has placed before those who seek admission to the California bar” and the “manifest public interest in maintaining access to the justice through competent and qualified legal services.”  The letter sets forth several courses of action, including:

  • Postponement of the California bar exam to September 9-10, 2020 and efforts to convert the exam to an online format.
  • “[E]very effort possible” to generate and distribute grading and final results of the September 2020 bar exam by December 31, 2020.
  • Coordination with the National Conference of Bar Examiners—who administers the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)—to facilitate online administration of the September MBE, “or some variation thereof.”
  • Preservation of the June 2020 date for the next administration of the First-Year Law Students’ Exam (FYLSE), otherwise known as the “Baby Bar”, with plans to convert the FYLSE to an online format.  (The California “Baby Bar” is an optional exam that takes place in June and permits law students—often at unaccredited law schools—to obtain credit for their law study.)
  • Postponement of the October 2020 FYLSE to November 2020 to maximize grading resources for the September 2020 bar exam.

To help realize these steps, the letter orders the State Bar to submit by May 11, 2020 a workplan for the online administration of the June 2020 FYLSE and September 2020 bar exam.  But the letter also leaves room for adjustment, declaring that the court will continue to “explore other options as circumstances develop or change” and that “the court may consider altering or amending these directives” should the current plan prove infeasible.