Delaware cancels bar exam, candidates left in “limbo”

DELAWARE – Hundreds of recent law school graduates will have to wait until next year to take the state’s bar exam. This comes after the Delaware Supreme Court and Board of Bar Examiners canceled the test that was already rescheduled from July to September.

Candidates hoping to take the Delaware bar exam this year say they’re in limbo now. The state only offers one test a year but it’s now canceled altogether due to the pandemic. The Delaware Supreme Court and Board of Bar Examiners releasing the following statement on Friday:

“Nearly 60 percent of the candidates that have applied to take the Delaware Bar Exam this year are from out of state, including locations currently considered ‘hotspots.’ Some of those out of state applicants are also subject to quarantine requirements in their home state. The rapidly changing nature of the pandemic makes this year’s exam particularly difficult to administer.”

“It should have been in July and then it was pushed off to October. They went to a different location down in Harrington and it was designed to be socially distanced to try and provide a safe environment,” says Attorney John L. Williams, the president of the Williams Law Firm.

Williams also says the state’s bar exam is one of the hardest in the country, describing it as the “Major League of Bar Exams.” He says only about 300 people take it every year with about a 50 or 60 percent pass rate.

One recent graduate agreed to speak with 47 ABC, anonymously, over the phone. He says many are worried that publicly speaking out may negatively impact their character and fitness applications.

He agrees that an in-person exam would not have been safe. “Test takers here expected that there was going to be a move. We did not expect it to be canceled outright. A large number of states across the county have been postponing their bar exam due to the inherent nature of the exam itself you have a large number of people in a small space for two to three days at a time.”

He says other states are moving things online but some are reporting technical issues, “Exam takers who are not able to login to the system, not able to download their practice exam files, not able to upload files back to the servers.”

There are also concerns about cheating if things were to move online. “Even if there is some kind of technical way, it’s the not same as being monitored or surveilled and ensures the absolute integrity of the process,” says Attorney Joe Hurley with the Joseph A. Hurley Law Firm.

The anonymous graduate also believes “diploma privilege” is the most equitable arrangement in this situation. “I think a move towards diploma privilege is a better option which would allow graduates of AVA accredited law schools, if your law school regularly has a high percentage of students pass the bar on their first attempt, then you are granted a license to practice within the state.”

Right now, those hoping to practice law in Delaware will have to wait until July 2021 to take the state’s next bar exam. In the meantime, the state is working on a limited practice rule similar to the jobs many graduates take on as law clerks before taking the exam. This means they can perform legal work in Delaware under the supervision of a Delaware lawyer until the next opportunity to take the Bar.

Officials say specific details about the limited practice rule will be given directly to the applicants and will be made available on the Supreme Court and Board of Bar Examiners web pages as soon as they are available.

Categories: Delaware, Local News