Bar Exam COVID Rules Seem To Depend on What Zip Code You Are In

Law school graduates taking the February 2022 Bar Exam will encounter very different Covid-19 precautions depending on where they are taking the test.

States that adopted differing patchworks to battle the Covid-19 pandemic are extending the variation to law graduates taking the biggest test of their lives.

“For many, an already stressful experience will be made more stressful,” said Aaron Taylor, Executive Director of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence. “I surely wouldn’t want to take a bar exam alongside maskless and unvaccinated peers.”

For example, test takers in New York City and Westchester County must prove they have been vaccinated, according to rules issued by the New York State Board of Law Examiners. The state’s other two sites, in Buffalo and Albany, have no such requirement, though the unvaccinated must show a negative Covid-19 test.

Florida does not require masks, vaccination proof or negative Covid-19 tests, according to the state’s Board of Bar Examiners. Test takers will sit 6 feet apart and “are encouraged to wear masks while not at their desks.”

Georgia requires masks though no proof of vaccination. However, Georgians who have a cough, congestion or runny nose must show vaccination proof or submit a negative Covid-19 test, according to the state.

Ohioans must wear masks though they do not need to prove they have been vaccinated, the Supreme Court of Ohio said in a notice. “Proctored restrooms” will help ensure social distancing, and organizers “will do their best” to avoid putting those who voluntarily show they have been vaccinated in the same room with those who haven’t been vaccinated.

North Carolina requires masks and either proof of vaccination  or a negative Covid-19 test. To ensure distancing at check-in, test takers will see floor markers and clear plastic barriers on tables.

In Illinois, where masks are required, those who do not show proof of vaccination must submit a negative Covid-19 test on the first day of the bar exam.

Texas, which encourages masks but does not require them, is joining Maryland and several other states in trying to boost social distancing by holding exams in more locations than usual. Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia and others are also implementing seating limits.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) said recently that it anticipates most jurisdictions will follow through with in-person tests. If that changes in the next few weeks, examiners said they will make materials available for make-up dates in late March.

“We realize the need to be flexible,” said Bradley Skolnik, Executive Director of the Indiana Board of Law Examiners.

States that for now are following NCBE’s lead said they will continue to consult with local health authorities as they get closer to the February test dates.

“We have to be guided by the science,” said Jonathan Azrael, former chairman of the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners.

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