BOARD OF BAR EXAMINERS - VOLUNTEERS ASSISTING WITH BAR ADMISSIONS
One of the highlights of the year for both the Delaware Supreme Court and the members of the Board of Bar Examiners is the admission ceremony for new members of the Delaware Bar. Held annually in December, the ceremony is the culmination of the efforts not only of the new admittees, but also of all those who have participated in the admission process. That process starts, from the applicant’s perspective, back in the spring when individuals who have graduated or are in their third year of law school complete an application for admission. However, for members of the Board of Bar Examiners, who assist the Supreme Court with bar admissions, the process starts back in January when the Board has its first meeting of the year and begins an annual process that starts with the development of the essay portions of the upcoming year’s bar exam.
At that time, essay topics are determined and assigned to each of the eight members of the Essay Committee who, along with an associate member, are responsible for drafting an essay question and proposed answer. Once the first draft is completed, an essay question is subjected to several reviews to ensure the fairness of the test. The first review is done in March when the full Board reviews each question. The final review occurs later in the spring when the Review Committee undertakes a detailed review with an eye to minimizing ambiguities and irrelevant information in the question, as well as ensuring the completeness and accuracy of proposed answers and appropriateness of proposed scoring.
Following the exam, which is held at the end of July, Essay Committee Members work on grading the essay portion of the exams After a scoring calibration for each question is conducted, each essay is graded by two separate readers. (A separate examination, the Multi-State Performance Test, is also scored at this time by other members of the Delaware Board of Bar Examiners.) Finally, the raw scores are sent to a statistical expert who places them on the same scale as the Multi-State Exam and then to an accounting firm which verifies the work of the statistician.
By early October, the scoring has been completed and the results of the exam are announced. Due to Delaware’s emphasis on complete anonymity, which assures that no one knows the name of the person whose exam they are grading, results are first announced only by number. Thereafter, the lockbox which has contained the slips with the applicants’ secret exam numbers and signatures since the time they entered the exam site, is opened and numbers and names are matched so that scores can be announced by name.
At this point, the work of the Character and Fitness Committee begins. Members of this Committee interview each individual who has passed the bar exam and review their applications and supporting documentation to ensure the fitness of each candidate for admission to the Delaware Bar.
Unlike in many states, most tasks associated with admitting lawyers to the bar in Delaware, are undertaken by volunteers. Not only do they devote countless hours to the functions described above, members of the Board, who are appointed by the Supreme Court for three year terms, also serve on the Board’s Administrative Committee, which addresses such matters as facilitating the use of computers for taking the bar exam, as well as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Committee, which reviews requests for and determines how to provide exam accommodations necessary for applicants with disabilities, and the Investigation Committee which reviews and makes recommendations concerning applications in which a problem has arisen. In addition, to all of the work of Board members, other attorneys assist by serving as associates in drafting and grading the essays or by helping to proctor the exam.
And so, when the date of the Admissions Ceremony arrives in December, the new admittees are not the only ones with something to celebrate. The Delaware Supreme Court also celebrates - both the success of the newly admitted lawyers and the dedication of the members of the Board of Bar Examiners and others who have worked so hard to ensure that those admitted truly have the ability and character to become members of the Delaware Bar.