Malilong: Online bar exams?

The Other Side

THIS year’s bar examinations would have started in exactly three weeks. Instead, it will be held in November next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That means for the class of 2020 an additional year to prepare for one of the toughest licensing tests in the country.

Let’s hope that the situation has improved by then to make a “normal” conduct of the examinations possible. I do not think we are prepared for online examinations yet, considering how unreliable our internet service is. Besides, we do not wish our aspiring lawyers to go through the trouble that their counterparts in England and the United States experienced while taking online examinations recently. As it is, bar exams are littered with enough horror stories already.

The most common complaint against “virtual” examinations is that the bar students cannot leave their seats at any time while taking the test. An examinee in England claimed that he had to urinate in a bottle while maintaining eye contact with the computer screen because he would be disqualified if he did not.

Relieving oneself in front of a camera, knowing that a watcher is keeping an eye on him, can really be embarrassing. When I took the bar examinations, male examinees were also not allowed to go to the comfort room to empty their bladder. An aluminum bucket was placed in the back of the room for that purpose. I used the bucket once and I can still remember the amused faces I saw on my way back to my seat. I must have really made a lot of noise with the bucket.

There must have been 20 pairs of eyes in that room but I was confident that none was headed in my direction while I was punishing the pail because no one wanted to lose time. On the other hand, Tian Juin See, the English guy, knew that someone else was watching him through the probing eyes of the computer camera in his room and it must have been disconcerting. I would not be surprised if others like him would rather pee in their pants because at least, it afforded them a little privacy.

But nothing beats the story, told by the New York Times, of a fresh law graduate in Chicago, who gave birth to a baby boy on the first day of her online bar exam a couple of weeks ago. Brianna Hill was in the midst of writing her legal argument when she felt her water broke.

Instinct would have made her rush to the hospital but Brianna knew that if she did that, she would be disqualified and would have to wait for the next bar schedule in February. So she stayed put on her chair, never taking herself away from the line of sight of the artificial intelligence proctor and completed her paper.

It was only then that she asked her husband to drive her to the hospital. After three hours of labor, she gave birth. But she had another mission to accomplish which was to take the second half of the exam and she was determined to do it despite her condition.

So the following morning after a little rest and while her baby was sleeping, she handed him to her husband and went to an empty adjoining room and finished what she had started, interrupted only by a 30-minute break during which she nursed her child.

The results of her bar exam will not be released until December. Brianna said she had no regrets. Adrenaline compensated for her lack of sleep.

While Brianna’s and Tian’s cases are exceptional, they also remind us of the travails aspirants have to go through to join the bar. It’s not easy to earn the title, Attorney.


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