The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered changes to the state bar exam, allowing prospective lawyers to take the test online with an open book in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
A remote, two-day exam July 28-29 will include eight essay questions on Nevada law and a performance question written by the state’s Board of Bar Examiners.
Chief Justice Kristina Pickering wrote in a 5-2 decision handed down Wednesday that “a modified bar examination in July 2020 is in the best interest of the State of Nevada and the applicants.”
The pandemic alternative would provide “stability to applicants during uncertain times” and “protect applicants and examination administrators by following COVID-19 social distancing requirements.”
The plans also would ensure reliable grading, Pickering wrote.
The order also eliminates a multistate bar exam, which has 200 multiple choice questions and is developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
“The Court considered alternatives to the Board’s proposal, including canceling the examination and affording a diploma privilege to all American Bar Association law school graduates, or postponing the examination until September, by which time in-person testing consistent with COVID-19 protocol or the ability to administer the (MBE) other than in an in-person environment might be possible,” Pickering wrote. “We reject the option of canceling the examination and affording a diploma privilege. In our view, this alternative fails to adequately protect the public against practitioners who have not established minimal competence.”
The decision also rejected postponing the exams until September, saying the safety of in-person exams at that time was still unclear.
Anyone who withdraws an application more than five days before July 1 would receive a refund or be allowed to defer taking the exam until February or July 2021, according to the order.
In a dissent, Justices Abbi Silver and Lidia Stiglich said they would prefer to postpone the exam until September.