Tennessee Supreme Court Orders Remote Administration of February 2021 Uniform Bar Examination

October 23, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order today approving remote administration of the February 2021 Uniform Bar Examination in Tennessee, citing the continuing risk associated with large gatherings due to the pandemic and the increase in COVID-19 cases in Tennessee. A “remote examination” means that the examination will be administered in the applicant’s home or location of choice.

Although stringent public health and safety protocols were planned for an in-person administration of the February 2021 examination, the Court could not “justify the risk of assembling large groups of people in limited space for up to nine hours per day over a period of two day, even if all precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are implemented”and instead, adopted use of the remotely administered Uniform Bar Examination for the February 2021 examination.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners announced on Monday that jurisdictions may choose to administer the February 2021 Uniform Bar Examination either in person or as a remote examination. Both the in-person and remote examination will be administered on February 23 and 24, 2021, and will consist of two Multistate Performance Tests, six Multistate Essay Questions, and 200 Multistate Bar Examination questions. Scores earned on the examination will be portable Uniform Bar Examination scores. The NCBE is the national organization that develops, produces, and controls the licensing tests used by most United States jurisdictions for admission to the bar. It coordinates the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which results in score portability, and determines the dates and conditions for conducting testing using any of their materials.

In entering its order, the Court recognized the hardships that COVID-19 has placed upon applicants to the Tennessee bar, as well as the interests of the applicants, the public, and the administration of justice as they relate to licensing and admission of attorneys.

“We continue to balance the need for applicants to the Tennessee bar to be afforded an opportunity to move forward in the licensing process with the need to protect the public by establishing that new lawyers meet the basic competency required of attorneys in Tennessee,” said Justice Roger Page, liaison to the Board of Law Examiners. “This balance must be part of the discussion as we continue to navigate a pandemic that limits social interaction. Remote examination that results in a portable UBE score provides that balance.”

Tennessee was one of 20 jurisdictions that administered a remote examination to July 2020 applicants, with 683 Tennessee applicants participating in the remote assessment that was administered to over 30,000 applicants on October 5 and 6.

“Remote testing is a wonderful option for our applicants and offers a legitimate assessment of competency,” said Bill Harbison, President of the Board of Law Examiners. “The remote UBE will be given on the same dates as the in-person testing and applicants will not experience delays in results and licensing due to the limitations cause by the pandemic.”

The Court ordered additional modifications to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7, section 11.03 and approved new Board Policies and Procedures related to remote administration of the examination which can be found on the Board’s website.

A copy of the order can be found here.