Court and a Thousand Applicants Overcome Bar Exam Obstacles
By Csaba Sukosd | October 6, 2020
The latest Ohio bar exam entered its final day today after the most challenging preparatory period in its history.
After multiple postponements due to COVID-19, the two-day exam, customarily held in person at one location for hundreds of people, was given remotely for the first time by the Ohio Supreme Court.
"I've been with the Court for a little over three years, and I would say that [the work for this cycle] is equal to most of the other ones put together," said Gina Palmer, the Supreme Court's director of Bar Admissions and Attorney Services.
The mid-year exam, typically held in late July, was rescheduled for early September with the hopes that a potential decline in the pandemic would allow for the traditional in-person testing. As public health uncertainty remained in late July, the exam was pushed back to October 5 and 6, and converted to an online-only format.
"Each time we've made these changes, it's been changes in our office as far as forms and processes and questions. And so, every single one is something new because we've never given a remote exam before," Palmer said.
On top of significant changes to the administrative paperwork, there have been alterations to the process of the exam itself. Confirming an applicant's identity under normal circumstances merely requires a state-issued ID and a fingerprint. Remotely, that isn't possible, so the staff had to come up with an alternative method.
From a technological perspective, functionality and security have been at the forefront, with nearly 1,000 examinees having to download software from the Court's testing vendor.
"The staff has been wonderful. The managers all work a ton of hours trying to get everything done," Palmer said. "We have done and are doing everything in our power to have a successful bar exam."
Throughout the changes, Bar Admissions staff have kept a dialogue with the state's nine law schools to minimize concerns during an already demanding period.
The normal strain of bar prep has been complicated by the consequences of COVID-19. For law school graduates, what normally is two months of priming was extended to four.
"What you had in May is not in your brain anymore. So, you have to do a lot of the review," said Ohio State University Moritz College of Law grad Frank Bumb.
Studying at home during these times also has come with unique adjustments.
Alexis Apparicio, another applicant who earned her law degree from Ohio State, has been sharing living space with her mother, who also is working from their Columbus home during the pandemic.
"I might have to stay up a little bit later. I might have to get up a little bit earlier so that she's able to do what she has to do because she's on the phone a lot for her job," Apparicio said prior to beginning the test.
Physically separated for months, communication has been critical to keep law school staffs and students connected to move to the finish line: whether it's seeing others via videoconference, being silly on social media, or offering encouraging words on the phone.
"To say that I am proud is an understatement and doesn't do justice to how unbelievably amazed I am at how my grads are doing," Katherine Kelly, a Moritz College of Law professor and the director of its academic support program, said prior to the start of the exam. "In spite of everything, we are ready."