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Law school graduates look ahead as Maryland postpones bar exam amid coronavirus pandemic

Maryland’s uniform bar examination, scheduled to take place July 28-29 at the Baltimore Convention Center, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Maryland Court of Appeals issued an administrative order Tuesday delaying the bar exam, which a lawyer must pass in order to practice law in the state. The exam has been tentatively rescheduled for Sept. 9-10 at multiple locations that will be determined and announced at a later date. The bar exam is typically offered twice a year, once in February and July.

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The Baltimore Convention Center was turned into a 250-bed makeshift hospital in April in response to the pandemic to help hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. While Gov. Larry Hogan earlier in the month gave local officials the authority to begin reopening their jurisdictions, Baltimore remains under a stay-at-home order.

The State Board of Law Examiners will rely on the status of COVID-19 in Maryland and guidance from public health recommendations to determine whether they can administer the exam in September.

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Joshua Perry, a recent graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, said he understands the need for safety precautions but said it’s frustrating to be in “limbo” with an ever-changing virus and the uncertainty of what may happen in September.

While Perry, 36, has a full-time job as an asset manager for Brown Advisory, he said many recent graduates haven’t been able to find a job, with the bar exam’s postponement further delaying employment opportunities.

Several states, including New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Connecticut, have also suspended their bar exams. Utah became the first state to allow recent graduates to bypass the bar exam and practice, so long as they fulfill a list of requirements.

Other states, including New Jersey, Georgia and Arizona, are allowing recent graduates to practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney while they wait to take the exam.

Alana Glover, another recent University of Baltimore graduate, said the postponement was inconvenient but she understood given the health crisis. Glover, 26, said many students were relieved to have extra time to study after stay-at-home orders restricted access to libraries and other public spaces.

Glover said she’s slowly preparing for the exam but will have to redevelop her study schedule when she begins work in August at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Preparation for the bar exam is a full-time responsibility, Perry and Glover said, with many devoting months of studying to prepare.

Gregory Bordelon, director of bar success at the University of Baltimore, said he was working in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina ravaged communities and caused many exams to be lost in the damage. But he hasn’t seen anything of this magnitude cause such widespread change to the bar exam.

Bordelon said he’ll work with recent graduates to develop new study regimens to fit the delayed schedule, whether that be on a part-time or full-time basis.

“The bar exam represents a high level of anxiety for the students,” Bordelon said. “I’m trying to reinforce the idea that preparing for the bar exam has to be a very regimented, scheduled process ... I think all students are ready, they’re just now happy that they know when the exam will be.”

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