Bar Exam Finds New Normal
By Csaba Sukosd | March 18th 2022
After two years of remote testing, the Ohio Bar Examination is available in person, again.
The Supreme Court of Ohio's Office of Bar Admissions conducted the most recent exam in Wilmington, Ohio. The previous three exams were administered online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This has actually been one of our best exams," said Gina Palmer, the director of bar admissions and attorney services.
The return to in-person testing was managed with a focus on safety which meant
staggered start and departure times, more spacing between test-takers, and consolidating all the materials examinees need into one envelope.
It also was the first time the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) was held in person in Ohio, requiring different instructions and implementation. The switch to the UBE, which was introduced in the state in February 2021, makes it easier for successful applicants to practice law in other states that have adopted the UBE - currently 38 others plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
With all the procedural tweaks, it was invaluable to have examinees and staff at the same location.
"We could answer questions and address technical issues instantly instead of struggling to communicate online," Palmer said.
Proctors - volunteers who aid with the distribution, collection, and supervision of the exam - provide much of the on-site help. Most of the regular volunteers are retirees who have served for years. With the public health uncertainty surrounding COVID, many proctors opted out of this exam as a precaution. Of the 43 proctors needed to oversee two days of examination, 20 were first-time volunteers. Typically, only one or two new proctors are trained for each exam.
"I certainly understand having the need for proctors, because without them you can't have an exam," said Amy Flowers, a first-time proctor who works as a litigation attorney in Columbus. "It's also helpful to have people who understand what it's like to take the test."
Flowers and most of the new volunteers responded to a letter from Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor asking attorneys to assist as a service to the legal profession. The opportunity allowed these lawyers to relive arguably their most memorable experience as aspiring members of the bar. It also provided them with a deeper understanding of the many months of work and planning required to pull off the bar exam twice a year.
"I now know how much effort goes into setting up and running this so smoothly," said proctor and Cincinnati-based attorney Jonathan Smith.
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