1000 Bar Takers Breathing Same Air for Two Days--No, Get Florida Bar to Offer Safe Exam

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During the middle of a pandemic that has already infected over a million Americans and over thirty-seven thousand Floridians, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners has decided to group perhaps over two thousand law graduates into two auditoriums for two days straight to take the bar exam. The bar exam has become increasingly harder over the years, and the failure rate has risen in Florida and nationwide. Yet so much of the public remains underserved in our legal system. 

Now the exam poses a risk to the public and to graduates. The temperature measures the examiners have in place will fail with respect to the asymptomatic. Graduates will have to choose between risking their health and lives, their loved ones' health and lives, and their careers.  

Instead, we ask that our bar-takers be licensed in a timely and safe fashion and that they have options. We are delighted to see that the deadline for Covid 19 related accommodations has now been extended to July 1, and we ask that the FBBE and everyone in the legal community take steps to notify and assist bar-takers with accommodations.

Students should not have to take an exam under such apocalyptic conditions and should have a wider range of options. Many have had their lives overturned due to family job loss and death, and they have all had to adapt to a semester of online learning with stressed out, still adapting professors. They will now have to adapt to studying online for the bar with bar study programs that were not designed to serve so many would-be takers online. 

This issue also disparately impacts disabled bar takers. We have heard from bar- takers with immune deficiencies, an asthmatic bar-taker who can't breathe with a mask, and a bar taker with muscular distrophy. 

This issue also impacts graduates with fewer economic choices. Statistically, these graduates often enter public service, an area where legal help is most desperately needed. Again, we have heard from bar-takers who are running on fumes and have student loans. We ask that these bar-takers be offered safe options for timely licensing.

Importantly, this issue impacts us all in Florida and beyond. Some of the spreading events have included funerals, birthday parties, and a church choir rehearsal. Biology Professor Erin Bromage's article indicates that the science suggests that longer periods of time with larger groups of people in an enclosed space increases risk of spread.

Those who contract the illness at the exam or while publicly studying for the exam can spread it to someone who can spread it to someone and so on. 

Instead, the bar examiners could follow other states' leads and apply one of several other options as other states have done. Though this campaign is independent, we support our Florida deans and the excellent expertise they lended previously to the FBBE and might lend in the future. The FBBE could delay to the fall, which even Georgia has done, or offer an additional bar in the fall. They could allow students to practice under an attorney's supervision, which states like Arizona have done. Alternatively, they could explore a remote test as Nevada and Indiana are doing.  They could also explore multiple other options to protect bar takers with health conditions, protect both public health and the public's access to good counsel, and timely license graduates.

Why do I care? I will soon be a professor in another state, so my self-interest is fine regardless of bar stats, and I am acting in my individual capacity. Aside from caring about human beings in general, some of these graduates were my students. I have seen them overcome so many challenges like death of a sibling or hospitalization to meet academic standards. I have heard about their plans to serve the public as child protection attorneys, environmental lawyers, or collaborative family lawyers. I have seen them volunteer to help impoverished people with their taxes and to visit seniors in the nursing home. I have worked sixty hour weeks with them to teach them skills and have seen many of them work eighty hour weeks through so much stress.  I have cried a few times already thinking of the risk to them. I have grieved the deaths of students before. Please let's make sure we don't have to grieve again. 

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