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New York Just Cancelled the Bar Exam: What Do I Do Now

As if the bar exam is not stressful enough, jurisdictions are making last minute decisions about whether to hold the exam, and it’s adding to the stress. On July 16, 2020, New York announced that it was cancelling the in-person bar exam scheduled for September 9-10. Specifically, the announcement states: “In light of accelerating public health concerns and continuing governmental restrictions, the Board of Law Examiners has concluded that an in-person bar exam cannot be safely administered on September 9-10, 2020.” Further, New York stated “When a determination is made as to a future exam, the Board will announce how the applications feed paid by candidates currently registered for the September exam will be handled.”

When Massachusetts, Maryland, DC, and New Jersey cancelled their in person exam, they simultaneously announced the administration of an online exam on October 5-6. However, bar exam takers everywhere are shocked (and so am I) that New York did not commit to the online exam. WHAT?! Instead, New York has assembled a Working Group to determine how bar applicants may be admitted, whether it be a remote exam, diploma privilege, or some other alternative. Again, WHAT?!

Okay, so what do we do now?

1. Know that it’s completely okay to feel what you’re feeling.

This whole bar exam process has been nothing short of frustrating, disappointing, stressful, and any other related word. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re overreacting, because you’re not. You’ve spent 3 years or more in law school to take this exam, and for most, the bar exam application costs money that you didn’t easily have. You’ve been studying. You are entitled to not feel okay right now.

2. Take some time off.

Take a handful of days off to process this news and to decompress. This isn’t easy news to deal with, and you need to step away from all of this for a bit. Do something you enjoy or just relax. But, you need to try to get in a good headspace.

3. Continue on as if the exam is moving online in October.

This is important. The New York Board of Law Examiners indicated they are going to make a decision by early August. This is two weeks of study time that you would lose if they announce an online exam administration if you do not study. You do not want to lose that time. So, you need to carry on with studying. This was a bit of a setback, but you have to push forward. If they announce diploma privilege and you studied for nothing? So what. If they announce an October bar exam and you lost two weeks of study time and now feel behind and even more overwhelmed? Yikes. It’s important to plan ahead and keep pushing forward.

4. Adjust your study plan.

If the remote exam is happening in October, that means you now have an additional month of studying. Sit down with your study schedule and think about how you want to amend it. You may want to have all of your review/learning of the substantive law be done by September 1, so you have an entire month of just review, memorization, and practice leading up to the exam.

5. Keep checking or updates.

Always be sure to keep checking NY BOLE’s website for updates periodically. You want to be sure you are as informed as possible at all times.
Although this definitely stinks, the only thing we can do is try to remain positive and productive and move forward. It’s better to have a plan and to be prepared for whatever scenario that’s coming next and to stay ahead of it.

Be sure to check back here for more updates and helpful tips!

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