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Lowering the Bar? Law school grad reacts to Florida’s last-minute exam switch

Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 10:26 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the legal system, from courtrooms going virtual, to trials getting pushed back. Now, those who are trying to start a career in law are being forced to adapt, too.

The Florida Supreme Court announced Wednesday that the Florida Bar exam would be moved online. The normally two-day event will now be condensed into one make-or-break test.

In a normal year, thousands of people sit in the same large room in Tampa to take the test. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners determined health guidelines wouldn’t let that happen, creating a plan that split the crowd into half, with in-person testing sites in Orlando and Tampa.

Fast forward to this week, and even that wasn’t an option. The test will be online, using the same software already used for some essay portions of the original exam.

Connor Ellis is a Tallahassee and Valdosta native and 2019 graduate of the University of Florida College of Law.

“I was kind of skeptical of going into a room with that many people,” he said.

This will be his second chance at passing the bar. He said he doesn’t see it getting any easier.

“I think they’ll go after niche areas of law, things you might get tripped up on,” he said.

How does the format change with long-standing members of Florida’s legal community? Tallahassee attorney Joe Bodiford said he could see some employers skeptical.

“Yes, I think there will be scrutiny, but this class of bar takers will have the chance to prove them wrong, and prove to be just as qualified as any other group,” he said.

“So long as it is done fairly and accurately, why not?”

Ellis pointed out that many already have problems with the traditional exam process.

“A lot of people just don’t agree with it. It’s a snapshot in time, it’s time structured, all of that stuff,” he said.

Even so, passing the bar in your sweatpants would be a story to tell.

“If you’re able to pass the exam and get licensed this year, it will definitely be special and meaningful for the students that do that,” Ellis said.

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