DC boosts capacity for July bar exam following outcry

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REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

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  • Officials said they can now seat 1,550 examinees, up from 1,100
  • That still may not be enough to meet demand for the District of Columbia's July bar

(Reuters) - Bar exam officials in Washington, D.C., have secured a second site for the upcoming attorney licensing test in July, enabling them to accommodate 450 additional examinees.

Capacity limits for the original D.C. exam venue had generated pushback from law deans across the country who worried their graduates would miss an opportunity to be licensed in a key legal market.

The D.C. Court of Appeals, which oversees the bar exam, on Thursday said it will now test 450 law graduates at the University of the District of Columbia in addition to the 1,100 seats already secured at the DC Armory for the July 26 and 27 exam.

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The new 1,550-seat capacity may still not be enough to meet demand. Between 1,700 and 1,800 people typically take the District’s July exam, but larger venues previously used for the exam were unavailable this year, the court said. A court spokesman did not immediately clarify Friday whether officials are continuing to seek more space.

The court has given first-time examinees from seven local law schools priority registration for the test—a plan that more than 100 out of state law deans called “unfair” in a May 4 letter to Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby. Registration for local graduates opened Thursday. Graduates of other schools and repeat testers may register for the exam starting May 18, with remaining seats allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

In their own message to fellow law deans sent Wednesday—before the new venue was added—deans of six area law schools defended the decision to prioritize local students and said they requested that approach from the court. Bar examiners in New York took a similar approach when space was limited for its September 2020 bar exam, they noted. (New York, like many other large bar exam jurisdictions, eventually moved that test online due to COVID-19.)

The court said some examinees may need to take the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in a different jurisdiction and transfer their score to the District of Columbia if all available seats fill up. The court said it is reducing its UBE score transfer fee from $418 to $232 for July 2022 test takers and is allowing those examinees to apply before their UBE scores come in, which will expedite their admission.

Read more:

DC bar exam venue change is bad news for out-of-state law grads

Bar exam pass rate dropped last year for first-time testers

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com