An Epic Fail

52 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2020 Last revised: 7 Nov 2023

See all articles by Marsha Griggs

Marsha Griggs

Saint Louis University School of Law


All at once, the U.S. found itself embattled with the threat of COVID-19, the new normal of social distancing, and the perennial scourge of racial injustice. While simultaneously battling those ills, the class of 2020 law graduates found themselves also contending with inflexible bar licensing policies that placed at risk their health, safety, and careers. During a global health pandemic, bar licensing authorities made the bar exam a moving target riddled with uncertainty and last-minute cancellations. This costly and unsettling uncertainty surrounding the bar exam administration was unnecessary because multiple alternatives were available to safely license new attorneys. A ball was dropped, and bar examiners at the state and national levels failed epically at an opportunity to be adaptive, decisive, and transparent, to the detriment of a class new lawyers and the public they will serve. The dogged insistence on status quo that led to the bar exam chaos of 2020, has placed the method and purpose of bar examination under national scrutiny. This Article offers a critical analysis of the systemic failure of bar licensure authorities to respond adaptively to crisis; explores alternative processes to measure minimal competency; and offers insight about the institutional mindset that has dominated our perception of the bar exam. An entire class of bar takers was held captive to conventional thinking at a time that called for compassion and innovation. Any failures on this bar exam are ours, not theirs.

Keywords: Diploma Privilege, Online Exam, Bar Exam, COVID-19, pandemic, July 2020, Epic Fail, Marsha Griggs

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K20, K40, K42, Z18, I18, I23, I28

Suggested Citation

Griggs, Marsha, An Epic Fail. Howard Law Journal, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Fall 2020), Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020-55, Available at SSRN: or

Marsha Griggs (Contact Author)

Saint Louis University School of Law ( email )

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States

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