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The Texas Bar Exam and COVID-19

Update 7/3/2020

July 2020 Texas Bar Exam CANCELLED

By Southwest Bar Review

In its nineteenth emergency order surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court of Texas made the decision to cancel the in-person administration of the July 2020 Texas Bar Examination.  Citing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases around the State of Texas, the Court directed the Board of Law Examiners to provide alternatives for bar applicants seeking admission to practice.   The licensure options for admission in 2020 include:

1. Administering an in-person examination as scheduled on September 9-10.  

Note that the decision to shorten the 2 1/2-day exam to 2 days was made on June 2, 2020. Results of the September administration will be made available within three weeks after it would normally release July scores.

2. Administering an online examination on October 5-6, 2020.  

This exam will consist of 100 Multistate Bar Exam questions, 1 Multistate Performance Exam, the existing Procedure and Evidence questions, and 12 Texas Essay questions. Scores for the October 2020 exam will be released by December 4th

The BLE will make registration guidelines available for these new offerings as well as guidelines for the February 2021 Texas Bar Examination.

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Texas Bar Exam July and September 2020

By Southwest Bar Review

Update 6/3/2020

Changes to the administration of the July and September 2020 Texas Bar Exam

In an unprecedented attempt to navigate the impact of COVID-19, the Texas Board of Law Examiners released an update today on procedure and structure for the administration of both the July and September 2020 Texas Bar Examination.  To mitigate exposure for applicants, the Board condensed the bar exam and shortened it from the traditional 2 ½ days to 2 days.  Although initial studies concluded that a modified exam would compromise reliability as a testing instrument, further data revealed that increasing the weight of the MBE and reducing the weight of the essays would bring the exam’s reliability to an acceptable level.   Details on the Board’s decision are here.

Bar exam applicants should be mindful of the following:

The new two-day exam will be administered as follows:

Day 1

• Morning Session: 1 MPT (90 minutes) and 40 Procedure & Evidence Questions (90 minutes) 

• Lunch Break

• Afternoon Session: 6 Texas Essay Questions (3 hours)

Day 2

• Morning Session: MBE 1-100 (3 hours)

• Lunch Break

• Afternoon Session: MBE 101-200 (3 hours)

Each day will count for half of the total score. The weighting of the Texas Essays and the MBE will be allocated as follows:

• Procedure and Evidence Questions will count for 10%

• MPT will count for 10%

• Texas Essays will count for 30%

• MBE will count for 50%

The two-day exam will cover the same exact topics as the former 2.5-day exam however applicants should be prepared to answer 6 rather than 12 essay questions.  

Exam applicants should immediately begin to modify their current study plan to accommodate the new exam format.  With only six essays, applicants should be extremely well versed in the substantive law and should expect more cross over questions to allow for a greater variety of tested material.  

• With respect to the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), that portion is now weighted at 50% of the total score.   Adjustments in preparation priorities should be made to incorporate more MBE practice and strategy.  

• Face masks during the exam.  For the first time in history, exam candidates will be required to wear face coverings during the examination.  This safety precaution poses a question as to whether the exam presents an equal playing field for all applicants.  Many applicants may suffer from existing respiratory conditions which make breathing through a mask uncomfortable. The additional distraction could have an effect on overall exam performance.  In the coming days, we will address specific techniques applicants can use to mitigate the effects of facial coverings. 

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Update 4/29/2020

COVID-19 Update: Texas Bar Examination-two exams are better than one

Today the Supreme Court of Texas announced that the July 2020 Texas Bar Examination will be administered as scheduled on July 28th, 2020. Given the concern surrounding COVID-19 and the temporary restrictions on large gatherings, the State will also administer an additional exam on September 9th, 2020. Applicants will have the opportunity to sit for either exam, however, seating for the July 2020 will be limited in order to promote safe social distancing during the examination.  Applicants should note that seating for the exam will be prioritized based on the registration date.  

Highlights from today’s emergency court order are as follows:

•. Should an otherwise eligible applicant not be permitted to sit for the July 2020 exam because the examination is at capacity, that applicant will automatically be registered for the September administration of the exam. The option to withdraw from the September exam will rest with the applicant.

•. The timely filing deadline for the July 2020 exam will be extended until 11:59 pm on June 1st, 2020

•. July 2020 applicants can withdraw applications until June 1, 2020. Fees will be applied to a future examination of choice. 

•. The Board will announce shortly when applications for the September Texas Bar Examination will be available. 

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Update 4/1/2020

Future Texas Lawyers: The Bar Exam WILL go on

As the nation continues to navigate its way through COVID-19, much speculation surrounding the administration of the Texas bar exam has emerged. In order to decipher fact from fiction, we at Southwest Bar Review want to provide prospective bar applicants answers to many questions and at a minimum, offer some guidance on what bar applicants should expect in the months to come.

Will Texas administer a July 2020 bar exam

Possibly.  Unlike New York and California, Texas has a smaller bar applicant pool.  The ability to ensure proper social distancing during an exam is certainly feasible.  In addition, if necessary, Texas can administer an on-line exam while still maintaining the integrity of the exam. 

Will Texas postpone the July 2020 bar exam?

This is a likely scenario.  Susan Henricks, executive director of the Texas Board of Law Examiners said today that the plan will not change “until it is apparent that we cannot do so with reasonable safety and reliability.” She continued, “Any decision to postpone the July examination will be made in consultation with the Court and no later than May 5. If the examination is postponed, it would be postponed to September 29-October 1, 2020, at venues to be determined.

Health experts agree that COVID-19 will diffuse, and we will return to some semblance of normal.  Postponing the exam to the Fall is a good, safe choice.  New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have already made this decision. A Fall exam will still allow recent law graduates timely admission to practice.

Is Texas likely to enact a “diploma” privilege?  

Quite frankly, this option borders on absurd. A diploma privilege would grant 2020 law graduates admission to the Texas State Bar without having to take and pass the Texas Bar Exam.  This option not only compromises professional integrity, but it allows unqualified attorneys to practice law.   Granting the privilege will undoubtedly lead to a multitude of malpractice actions and create an overwhelming lack of confidence in the legal community. Law firms will be very hesitant to hire new associates without having passed the bar exam, and in turn, clients would be extremely wary of seeking advice from a questionably licensed lawyer. The bar exam protects clients in that it ensures that the lawyers they choose to hire have a measurable level of competence to practice their trade.  Skipping an essential licensing requirement would be disastrous. It is unlikely the State Bar will follow that path

Texas will administer the UBE exam starting in February 2021.   Will the bar exam in its current mode still be administered in July or this Fall?

Applicants have already registered for the July 2020 exam, and that exam already exists and is ready to be administered.  Logic dictates that the exam will proceed in its current form.

So, what do I do now?

Start studying.   Whether the exam happens in July or later this Fall, it will happen.  Take this opportunity to ensure your passing result the first time.  

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By Southwest Bar Review 3/26/2020

The Texas Board of Law Examiners announced that the administration of the July 2020 Texas Bar Examination is going forward.  Many concerns surround the proximity of exam applicants in light of the novel coronavirus – COVID-19 pandemic.  Technology allows an exam to be administrated remotely if necessary, and the number of exam locations can increase to accommodate the appropriate and safe social distancing required by government officials.  

As we all know, July will be the last time Texas will administer the current bar exam before it moves into the administration of the UBE (Uniform Bar Exam) in February 2021. Administering the July exam is a good thing because it will allow for the continuity of education for recent law school graduates and will allow newly licensed Texas lawyers to serve the legal community in a timely fashion.  

The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath will surely give rise to a significant number of legal challenges requiring the specialized knowledge of attorneys. So, if there ever was a good time to prepare for the bar exam, it is now.

In light of COVID-19, all Universities have moved to an on-line model for the remainder of the 2020 academic year, and some law schools have already completed their third-year classes.  As such, applicants have far more time to prepare for the July 2020 bar exam than ever before.  We see this as an opportunity for candidates to sharpen their skills and to increase the overall pass rate in Texas.  This will be a far more competitive exam given our current landscape.  

Trying to master the necessary content for the bar exam in a traditional 8-week model is not the best idea.  We are all experiencing a little more time at home, and this time should be used to our advantage. 

We will follow up shortly on the advantages of jump-starting your MBE practice and the impact that will have among bar exam candidates across the country.  We anticipate the required passing score on the MBE will increase thereby requiring additional study hours.  The most competitive MBE states are California and New York, and these states are the hardest hit right now.  With both states virtually shut down, those applicants have even MORE time to dedicated to the MBE.  They will set the curve, and it will certainly be higher than in years past.  This is nothing to worry about – it just requires that you use your time effectively.  

More to follow on the specifics of the Multistate Bar Exam- MBE. 

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