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Concern grows over technical glitches as thousands prepare to take Florida bar exam

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 10:24 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - It’s often a make-or-break test for law school graduates who have spent years getting ready. Like much else in 2020, administration of the virtual Florida Bar Exam is seemingly filled with issues.

In recent days, hundreds of test-takers have expressed concerns over major technical glitches associated with the ILG software being used to administer the test. On Friday, State Rep. Carlos Smith (D- Orlando) was one of two lawmakers to pen a letter to the Florida Supreme Court asking for alternatives.

The letter asks for the Supreme Court to issue a one-time emergency licensure order, which would allow law school graduates to begin practicing law, while having to meet a series of post-licensure requirements.

Proponents of “diploma privilege” argue the bar exam creates needless barriers for accomplished students qualified to practice law. Some states, including Washington and Utah, have allowed law students this year to skip the bar.

Brian Heckman is planning to take the exam on Wednesday. The FIU Law graduate said it’s been a challenging time.

“People are exhausted- mentally, physically, and emotionally,” he said.

Heckman encountered major technical issues trying to download the software.

“[It] flickered and crashed, and when it crashes, my computer remains locked down and I have to reset it multiple times,” he said.

Other users have reported more serious complications, including data breaches and compromised bank accounts.

Rep. Smith told WCTV it’s not acceptable.

“There’s just a total lack of confidence by the examiners that this particular vendor will be able to administer the bar exam,” he said.

He said a technical glitch in the middle of an exam might force the student to wait months to try again.

‘That’s not a viable option,” he said. “That means if there’s a glitch, the bar student has to wait until next year to be able to move one with their lives, to get a job.”

On its website, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners posted a statement acknowledging recent glitches, but cited only nine reports of data breaches or security problems.

Recent University of Florida Law graduate Jerris Sumlin said that’s hard to believe.

“We’ve been given no assurances this system will work with thousands of us on at the same time,” he said.

“It’s just been never-ending mental pressure on all of us.”

A software update was expected to be released no later than Saturday, but it remains to be seen if it will solve all the issues.

Meanwhile, Rep. Smith said as of Friday evening, the Supreme Court had not responded to his letter.

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