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Michigan's bar exam goes online in response to COVID-19

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way the Michigan law bar exam will be administered this year, Michigan Supreme Court officials announced this week.

The exam, given to new attorneys, will be given July 28 as a one-day online exam with an essay format instead of the standard two-day in-person examination given by the Board of Law Examiners.

University of Michigan law school

The board recommended that the Michigan Supreme Court issue an executive order on the exam, expressing concern about whether an in-person test could be conducted safely amid the coronavirus crisis.

The board is working with Michigan's five law schools, in addition to the University of Toledo, to ensure that individuals with disabilities who aren't able to take the online bar exam will be able to take it in person with measures in place to protect their health, court officials said.

Individuals taking the July exam will be on the same path to become licensed attorneys in Michigan as those who took the exam last year in July, said court officials.

 “The board conducted extensive research and consultations to make this decision, including outreach to Michigan public health officials and law school deans, while monitoring developments in the pandemic and approaches of other states,” said Justice Brian K. Zahra, the court’s liaison to the BLE.

Zahra added: “I am confident the Michigan essay examination will adequately test the applicants’ legal knowledge and skill. The public can be confident that those who pass this exam will have requisite knowledge of state law to become a member of the Michigan bar. Likewise, law school graduates can sit for the exam without risking public health.”

The Michigan Supreme Court, which has constitutional and statutory authority over the practice of law in the state,  entered an administrative order to change the format of the exam and to require accommodations for in-person testing under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Those not able to register to take the exam on a laptop should contact the board. Applicants who did not register to take the exam on a laptop must contact the Board of Law Examiners if they are not able to take the test online                                   

Legal experts will work with the BLE to determine the appropriate passing score based on results from previous exams.