Each state has rules governing allowable supplies and examinee conduct during the bar exam.The governing rules for bar exam accommodations are Rule 4.80 et seq. of the Rules Regulating Admission to Practice Law in California. All accommodations requests require documentation from a physician or a diagnostician.
Any applicant seeking nonstandard testing accommodations must petition, following guidelines established by the Committee of Bar Examiners (the Committee).The petition requires completing a series of forms.All applicants must submit a Petition For Testing Accommodations (Form A).Applicants who received testing accommodations in law school must submit a Law School Verification form (Form F).
Additional forms needed are specific to the applicant’s disability and must be completed by a diagnostician or physician.If the Committee learns that an applicant filled out the forms on behalf of a doctor or diagnostician, the accommodations request will be returned and required to be resubmitted once it is completed by an appropriate professional.
To ensure petitions are complete, all forms should be submitted at the same time.Do not alter the forms in any way.Do not copy or paste them into text editing programs.If this requires hand writing or typewriting answers directly onto the forms, please do so.Inconsistencies from one petition to the next make screening petitions more difficult and could result in a petition being rejected.
Be as thorough as possible when completing the forms. Often this will mean attaching additional documentation. If a petition is incomplete or vague the accommodation can be denied or returned to the applicant for further information.
Be as specific as possible about the origin of the disability or impairment and how it affects your ability to take the bar exam.Explain how the accommodations requested will ameliorate the impact of the disability.
For example, an applicant might have a back condition that causes back pain and requires regular breaks to avoid further injury.If the applicant puts “back pain” on the petition and requests additional time the Committee may lack the information to make an informed decision.
The applicant and his or her physician should instead explain that the applicant has a specified condition, such as spinal deterioration or a herniated disc, and that it is recommended that to avoid severe impairment the applicant take a five minute off-the-clock break every hour.
If an applicant has an intermittent physically disabling condition, the Committee also considers the likelihood that a person will have an occurrence of the debilitating condition.The Committee will accommodate for conditions that aresubstantially likelyto occur.However, it will not accommodate for conditions that onlymightoccur.
For instance an applicant who has a severe visual impairment may strain to read.This strain, over several hours, gives the applicant a severe headache.Accommodations could be made to test format so that the applicant takes a periodic break from reading.
By contrast, an applicant may suffer from unpredictable migraines that only strike for a few days a month.When a migraine strikes, the applicant must stop working and rest immediately.However, because the applicant cannot predict that he or she will get a migraine during the exam, the applicant is unlikely to get testing accommodations for this contingency.
Attach any documentation that could be helpful to the bar in verifying the disability or impairment.Unless the applicant’s disability is something that cannot and will not change, it is important to have documentation that is recent. This is particularly important for applicants who have conditions that can change over time. The Committee generally requires documentation within the past five years.However, since accommodations are intended to address an applicant’s current level of disability, conditions that may change such as mental health conditions or physical impairments that vary in severity require documentation within the past year.
The forms list many types of accommodations, but other accommodations can be made if they are shown to ensure the applicant is testing on a level playing field.
Petition for the specific accommodations you need and explain why those accommodations are necessary.There must be adirect relationshipbetween the requested accommodation and the disability.
If the Committee disagrees that a specific accommodation is needed, it will generally not suggest an alternative.It will ask you to provide further documentation or reject the petition.When an applicant requests accommodated time, the Committee does sometimes grant a modified time request (for example a petitioner requesting double-time might be granted time-and-a-half instead.)
The Committee considers each applicant’s petition individually and holistically.If a person has multiple disabilities, the Committee will consider the applicant’s overall functional limitations.A person who has both a physical and learning disability, for example, might ask for additional time to take the exam.The applicant could get denied the accommodation the basis of the physical disability and granted the accommodation on the basis of the learning disability, or granted or denied the time based on an overall assessment that it is not needed.
As a person with a disability, you are aware of how your disability impacts your functioning.
However, an administrator making a decision about accommodations does not know you.All the information that person has to make a decision about whether you need accommodations is that which is presented in your petition. Even if you think there is a clear, logical connection between your disability and the accommodation requested, you still need to present facts and information – evidence – that will allow a fact finder to decide in favor of granting you what you need.
For example:A deaf applicant might petition for accommodated time to take the bar exam.A person reading the petition may not see the connection between being deaf and the need for additional time.The applicant would need to provide documentation that this disability affects the applicant’s reading fluency, resulting in it taking more time than average to read the exam text.
The Committee sends each applicant an acknowledgment letter when the petition is complete and ready for review.If you do not receive an acknowledgment within 30 days of filing your petition, contact the State Bar.
The State Bar contracts with a team of specialists who review specific petitions.Whether a given applicant’s petition is reviewed by a specialist will depend on the nature of the disability.All petitions requesting accommodations for Learning Disabilities, ADHD and mental health disabilities are reviewed by a contracted consultant.Some physical disabilities are also reviewed by a consultant.This is often the case when the applicant’s condition is unusual or rare and/or the accommodation requested is atypical for the condition.Do not assume that the consultant will be familiar with all recommended accommodations for your disability (for example, the use of a larger font for a learning disability or ADHD).
Sometimes the Committee will seek additional information from the original doctor or diagnostician who completed the petition forms.In these cases the Committee first seeks the applicant’s permission.If the Committee seeks more information from an applicant, the applicant is sent a letter.The applicant has 30 days from the date of the letter to respond to the request.If the applicant does not respond or responds beyond the deadline, the petition is processed based on the information submitted.
Each applicant is sent a letter when the Committee has reviewed the accommodations request.
If a requested accommodation is modified or denied, the letter will contain excerpts of consultant’s reports so that the applicant understands why the petition was modified or denied.The applicant has 10 days from the date of denial to file an appeal.The 10 day deadline can be extended for good cause.
An applicant appeals by sending a letter of appeal and additional documentation that can help the Committee make a decision.Upon receipt of the appeal, the person reviewing the application can reverse or modify the decision.If the reviewer is still undecided about whether the accommodation is necessary, the appeal is reviewed by a subcommittee.The subcommittee considers all the reports from the treating doctors and consultants and makes a determination on whether to grant the accommodation(s).
The Committee aims to respond to all accommodations requests within 60 days of submission.Applicants who have not heard from the State Bar within 60 days should contact our testing accommodations department to determine their petition status.
All forms necessary to apply for accommodations are available online at:
Petitions are processed in San Francisco.Petitions sent elsewhere will be rerouted to the San Francisco Office.Send the forms to:
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, California 94105-1639
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