July Bar Exam: Issues with ExamSoft & Latest Microsoft Update

Important Information for July 2017 Bar Takers

Microsoft has been pushing the Windows 10 Creator Update.  If  your jurisdiction uses ExamSoft and you have not already installed it, do NOT install it now because it does not meet ExamSoft’s minimum system requirements. This is because ExamSoft does not have a scheduled update in time for the bar exam. In Ohio, the Office of Bar Admissions strongly recommends that you not use Windows 10 Creator. If you already downloaded the update, you must be capable of performing the workaround.

For those of you taking a bar exam in other jurisdictions, contact your state bar examiners right away to find out your state’s protocol.

  • Not sure if Windows Creator update is installed? Follow the instructions here.
  • Need to delay the update? Follow directions here (directions are near the bottom).
  • Need to uninstall within 10 days of updating? Follow the instructions here.

At the time of this post, ExamSoft is waiving the $50 fee for a re-download request. If you need to re-download, you should email or call ExamSoft and they will take care of the process for you.

I will post updates as I receive them but if you have any questions, contact ExamSoft or your Office of Bar Admissions.


July 2017 New York Bar Exam: Registration Period Is Open

Time to Register for the New York Bar Exam

The New York State Board of Law Examiners ,Corporate Plaza, Building 3 – 254 Washington Avenue Extension Albany, NY 12203-5195

The registration period for the July 2017 New York Bar Exam (a UBE jurisdiction) is now open. You have until April 30 to register through the Applicant Services Portal and unlike other jurisdictions New York does not have a late registration deadline. Therefore, if you don’t register by April 30, you are not taking the July exam.

In order to register for the UBE in New York you will need the following:

  • BOLE  number
  • NCBE number
  • A copy of your law school transcript
  • visa or mastercard (no debit cards accepted)

Filling out the application doesn’t take long (10 minutes, tops) but if you think you can get by without any of the above information, think again. The way NY registration works is that the program does no allow you to move from one category to the next until every question is answered. You can’ leave something blank and come back to it. So unless you know exactly how many credits you’ve earned for a stand-alone Professional Responsibility course, clinics, externships, and non-law classes, you better have your transcript handy.

Laptop Registration

You also need to decide if you are going to use your laptop on the bar exam. This might seem like a no-brainer (and it probably is) but before you click “yes” for that non-refundable $100 laptop fee, make sure your particular laptop is supported by the ExamSoft system. Not every jurisdiction permits use of tablet-laptop hybrids, and on the Feb 2017 exam, almost every state banned the new MacBook Pro with Touchbar Function.

Additional Requirements

In addition to passing the UBE you must also meet New York’s other requirements: (1) fulfill your pro bono hours; (2) achieve a passing score on the MPRE; (3) take the NYLC ; (4) pass the NYLE. For those starting law school after August 1, 2016, you must also fulfill the Skills & Values requirement.


New York’s New Skills & Values Requirement

If you want to practice law in New York, then be prepared to do more than just pass the bar exam. Over the past few years New York has instituted several new requirements for becoming licensed to practice law. In addition to the passing the Uniform Bar Exam, applicants must also do the following:

The latest requirement is the Skills Competency and Professional Values Requirement. It applies to everyone who begins law school after August 1, 2016.

There is no specific list of skills and values. According to the State of New York Court of Appeals (the governing body for becoming licensed to practice law), “[skills and values] are ever-evolving and should further each law school’s educational mission for its students…” Therefore, each law school should determine the skills and values with which its students should be familiar. However the Court does recommend the MacCrate Report as a good starting point for a law school to determine the skills and values.

Although there no specific list, there are specific “pathways” by which an applicant can satisfy the Requirement:

  • Pathway 1: law school has a plan that identifies and incorporates into the curriculum the skills and professional values required for basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession; this plan is publically available on the school website; and the law school can certify that the applicant has sufficient competency in the skills and familiarity with the values.
  • Pathway 2: applicant submits proof that he or she completed 15 credits of practice-based experiential coursework. 6/15 credits can be earned through non-credit summer employment that the law school certifies as equivalent.
  • Pathway 3: completes the NY Pro Bono Scholars Program.
  • Pathway 4: complete a post-grad 6-month fellowship.
  • Pathway 5: for applicants authorized to practice full-time for one year and part-time for two years.

Click here for more information on the Skills and Values Requirement.


Changes to the MBE: Substance

A few months ago I wrote about changes to the MBE in the number of scored questions. Instead of 190 scored questions, there are now 175. In addition to this, the NCBE has changed how it tests Evidence and and what it tests in Real Property.

Evidence: There are five categories in Evidence: I. Presentation of Evidence (including impeachment); II, Relevancy (including character evidence and expert testimony); III. Privileges; IV. Writings, Recordings, and Photographs; and V. Hearsay. Up through 2016, the question breakdown was:

  • 33%- 8.3 questions- Presentation (including impeachment)
  • 33%- 8.3 questions- Hearsay
  • 33% – 8.3 questions-Relevancy, Privileges, Writings, Recordings, and Photographs

What has changed? The substance of each category has not changed but the number of questions per category has. Now the new subject breakdown is:

  • 25%-6.25 questions- Presentation, including impeachment
  • 33%-8.3 questions- Relevancy, including character evidence and expert testimony
  • 25%-6.25 questions- Hearsay
  • 17%-4.25 questions- Privileges and Writings, Recordings, and Photographs

Why should I care? There used to be two “big rocks,” Presentation and Hearsay, but now there are three: Presentation, Hearsay, and Relevancy. In addition to knowing Presentation and Hearsay really well, you also need to have a good understanding of basic relevancy and how character evidence and expert testimony work within the general relevancy rule(s). Relevancy used to be a “pebble” with 2-3 questions so you didn’t have to spend a ton of time on it. Now you cannot afford to skim. So, without sacrificing Presentation and Hearsay you have to figure out how to devote more time to Relevancy.

Real Property: There are five categories in Real Property: I. Ownership; II. Rights in Real Property; III. Real Estate Contracts; IV. Mortgages/Security Devices; and V. Titles.

What has changed? The weight given to each category is the same (20%, 5 questions) but the content has increased. The following six topics have been added to Real Property:

  1. Ownership: Conflicts of law related to disputes involving real property
  2. Rights in Real Property: Property owners’ associations and common interest ownership communities; Transfer of easements, profits, and licenses
  3. Titles: Requirements for transfer by deed; Drafting, review and negotiation of closing documents; Persons authorized to execute documents

Why should I care? You might be thinking, “No big deal. So there might be a question on property owners’ associations, I can do that.” Multiply that by 6. There are 6 topics so there is the very real possibility of getting at least one question from each. This is almost 25% of all the Real Property questions. You might be thinking, “No big deal. They won’t test all 6 new topics.” You could be right but do you know which topics won’t be tested? You might be comfortable taking a chance because, it’s only one topic. So where do you draw the line? 1? 2? 3? What about the other MBE subjects? Is it ok to blow off 1 topic from each? Now you are at 7. It’s a slippery slope and you have to be careful where you draw the line.

The purpose of this post is not to scare you. The purpose is to inform you of what to expect so you can plan and prepare.


Ohio Bar Exam Application

If you plan on taking the July 2017 OHIO bar exam, then continue reading.

Ohio has a two-step application process: (1)  Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission (C&F Application) by mid-November of 2L year; and (2)  Bar Exam Application by April 3, 2017.

The C&F Application results in provisional approval and is valid for four years. The Bar Exam Application is your intent to sit for a specific exam and is valid only for that specific exam. The Ohio Office of Bar Admissions does not process Bar Exam Applications until the previous bar exam has been administered. The February 2017 exam was last week so the submission window is now open.

Items YOU must submit by April 3rd:

  • Supplemental Character Questionnaire*
    • update information provided in C&F application, including three additional character references.
  • Exam Application
  • Applicant Affidavit*
  • Law School Character Certificate
    • the law school must certify it has no knowledge of anything that would cause doubt regarding your character, fitness, or moral qualifications to practice law.
  • Non-Refundable Payments
    • bar exam fee and MPT fee. Must be certified checks or money orders.

*These items must be notarized.

Items your LAW SCHOOL must submit at least 30 days before the exam:

  • Final Law School Certificate
  • If applicable– Substance Abuse Instruction Certification
    • You do not need this if you received substance abuse instruction through a law school Professional Responsibility course. 

If you have questions about either the C&F Application or the Bar Exam Application, contact your law school’s bar support person or the Ohio Office of Bar Admissions.


Bar Exam Ban of MacBook Pro: details

On Saturday I posted information regarding jurisdictions banning use of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar function on the February 2017 bar exam. I’ve been updating it as additional jurisdictions make decisions about whether to ban its use. This post is for those wondering why the MacBook Pro has become an issue.

The Touchbar function makes the MacBook Pro similar to an iPhone: it has predictive typing and it learns the user’s vocabulary. This means that during an exam (not just the bar exam) the Touchbar function will automatically suggest words. Not only could a student type more information but might also get assistance with common legal terms and phrases. In addition, the Touchbar is a “multi-touch OLED display panel.” A huge thank you to Kirsha Trychta at West Virginia College of Law who explained that this is basically a mini menu screen embedded in the keyboard.

Why does this matter? The bar exam is a closed-universe test which means examinees must answer questions based on the knowledge in their head. No outside information. Depending on the jurisdiction, examinees must answer 6-12 essay questions covering 9-12 distinct subject areas. It is a high stakes test and security is no joke. There is no internet access during the test. In most jurisdictions, examinees are not permitted to wear watches, hats, or jackets; they may not bring in any sort of purse or computer bag, nor can they use highlighters or pencils. I think you see some of the issues the Touchbar presents.

Can’t you just disable the function? As of now, Examsoft (the testing program) can’t  automatically disable the function. There is a way to manually disable it, which is why a few jurisdictions are permitting examinees to use the MacBook Pro. However, this raises another issue- although exam proctors can verify that the Touchbar is disabled at the start of the exam, can they ensure an examinee can’t and won’t enable it later? This might be why most jurisdictions are banning the new MacBook Pro altogether.

The good news is that jurisdictions seem to be waiving the fee to register another laptop. The bad news is that MacBook Pro owners have less than three weeks to get another laptop and get used to using it.

For those taking the February 2017 bar exam and own a new MacBook Pro, contact your jurisdiction ASAP to find out whether it is banned.

We don’t know what the situation will be for the July 2017 bar exam. That’s far enough away that Examsoft might develop a way to automatically disable the Touchbar.

2/2 Update for Jurisdictions using Exam4: According to  Greg Sarab from Extegrity (Exam4): “Extegrity fields a full team of highly qualified tech staff… at all of our bar exams… This gives us the capacity to comfortably assist examinees before each session, and be able to keep an eye on things while they type.” You must manually disable the Touch Bar function but according to Exam4, techs will be at the exam to assist with disabling the App Controls, and confirm it has been done. Sarab also said that once in Exam4, you can’t get back in to change settings.


Feb Bar Exam: No MacBook Pro with Touch Bar function

Important Information for February 2017 bar takers:

Several jurisdictions have banned use of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar on the February bar exam.

As of 1/28, the following jurisdictions will NOT permit bar takers to use the new MacBook on the February bar exam: CA, CO, OK, TN, MA, NY, and WV.

IL will allow use of the MacBook as long as you disable the Touch Bar function. If you have a MacBook you must contact the IL bar examiners ASAP and disable the Touch Bar function. If anyone is found using a MacBook with an enabled Touch Bar during the exam, they will be immediately dismissed.

If you own a new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar function, check with your jurisdiction to see if you are permitted to use it.

1/29 Update: MD and PA have also banned the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar function.

1/31 Update: Add OH and TX to the list of jurisdictions banning use of the new MacBook Pro. NC will permit use but the touch bar must be disabled prior to entry into the testing facility and at the exam, proctors and techs will verify that is disabled.

1/31 Update: Looks like FL and SC will ban use of the new MacBook Pro.

2/1 Update: AL has just announced it will ban use of the new MacBook Pro.

2/2 Update on Exam4 jurisdictions: Greg Sarab from Extegrity (Exam4) provided the following regarding Exam4 jurisdictions:

  • Allow: Pro: AZ,  KY, LA, ME, PR.
  • Ban: DC, NE, VA.

According to Sarab, “Extegrity fields a full team of highly qualified tech staff… at all of our bar exams… This gives us the capacity to comfortably assist examinees before each session, and be able to keep an eye on things while they type.” You must manually disable the Touch Bar function but according to Exam4, techs will be at the exam to assist with disabling the App Controls, and confirm it has been done. Sarab also said that once in Exam4, you can’t get back in to change settings. There is no fee for registered examinees to re-download Exam4 on a different laptop, regardless of whether the jurisdiction has banned Touchbar MacBooks.