A League of Their Own: Six New Lawyers Reflect On Taking The July 2020 Bar Exam

What is it like to take the bar exam during a global pandemic?

Some of the July 2020 exam takers did not hesitate to sign up for the exam. For others, it was more difficult as they weighed the stakes involved in moving forward.

To pass the exam meant the possibility of landing a job in 2020, finding financial security, and having peace of mind.

To pass the exam also meant sitting for two days in a room with many other people after months of preparation — months spent, for the most part, studying alone. July 28 and 29 were days the future lawyers could not forget. Now, the exam is behind them, but the road to the finish line was not an easy one.

In a series of interviews, we talk with six recent law school graduates who became licensed North Carolina attorneys in 2020. As they navigated the uncharted territory of a major exam during a public health crisis, they faced thoughts of the unknown and days filled with questions. What would the exam be like? Would they be able to focus while wearing a mask, and was there a risk that they might contract COVID-19? Would the exam even take place at all?

More than 700 individuals took the bar exam in Raleigh this July after the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners moved forward with the decision to hold the exam in person. While other states were postponing the exam and considering alternative options, the NCBLE did not cancel, postpone, or offer the July exam in a virtual format. The bar exam was held at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, where the exam takers were separated across three buildings. As a precaution, students’ temperatures were taken before they entered, and masks were required.

In this article, six of the individuals who took the exam this July share their stories: their reactions, their fears, their hopes, and their dreams of passing this final hurdle and becoming attorneys in 2020.

Savian Gray-SommervilleSavian Gray-Sommerville, UNC School of Law

Savian Gray-Sommerville, originally from Charlotte, moved to Chapel Hill seven years ago to attend the University of North Carolina. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and political science, he decided to stay in the area for law school and obtained his law degree at UNC School of Law. He returned to Charlotte this spring, where he studied for the bar exam.

Sworn in two days before our conversation, Savian takes a moment to think back on the road to becoming a licensed attorney. “I am officially a lawyer. It’s been a long, long journey. A long time coming, but we made it.”

Although the bar exam was only one part of his journey, it was a chapter that spanned several months. As Savian reflects on the  decision to hold the exam rather than to offer an alternative, online format, he pinpoints the key stakes involved.

“It’s kind of like a triple-edged sword. The Board could proceed, which is what they did, and I think there are downsides to proceeding: there is a pandemic going on, people can contract COVID-19, people are going to have to study at home because libraries are closed, people might have kids. They could obviously postpone it, and I think they offered that for some folks. The third one is an alternative — doing something online. But that raises issues like ‘will we be able to report those scores to other states?’ Probably not. So at face value it doesn’t seem like there is any real good choice.”

Test takers’ physical health, their financial security, and their futures are all at risk.

Savian recognizes the Board’s difficult position, and he proposes what they might have offered. “The optimal solution would be to offer all three options, proceed, postpone, and an alternative, and people can choose to weigh the costs of those different things.”

Despite the potential risks, Savian decided to take the July exam. After thinking about his options, he wanted to take it so that he would be able to obtain a job and practice law this year.


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The thought of the unknown — what could happen — was on his mind during the months leading up to the exam. “There was also some insecurity as to are we actually going to have the exam,” he shares. “Although the Board had clearly told us they were going to go forward with it, you are watching the news, and you see the N.C. numbers going up and coming down, and you see states are just constantly closing down, and these governor’s orders going on, and there was this thought in the back of your head — am I studying for no reason? Am I doing all this stuff just for it to be ripped out at the last second and have to redo this again in January for the February exam or six months later in the fall?”

The updates on COVID-19 were, in some ways, more difficult than the idea of not knowing whether he would be able to take the test. As someone who is young, he thought there would be less of a risk, but when he heard reports on the numbers of African American individuals contracting the disease and dying from it, he became very concerned. Remarking on studying for the exam while new information continued to be presented, he says, “There’s a lot of uncertainty — but in the midst of all that, you’ve still got to somehow find the energy to focus on learning civil procedure or learning law for this exam to prove yourself. You still have fixate your mind on this particular thing and not get distracted.”

Despite the uncertainty, he was determined and pushed forward, preparing to take it, even though the circumstances were not at all ideal. Studying from home was one of those factors. “Some people can really do that well. Others, like me, I need to be in a library where it is just completely quiet — go find a hole in the bottom of a library and cram away. So that was unfortunate to have to study where there are other folks around.”

Remaining focused on his goal — to pass the exam and become an attorney — Savian prepared for the exam by wearing a mask while studying to simulate the experience of taking the exam. He held fast to this mindset on the testing days. “I was like, get in get out. My goal was ‘I’m here for a purpose.’” The mask was distracting in some moments.

“All throughout the exam process I had to keep fixating my mind on the goal ahead, but I think to some extent, it was a little bit relieving to know that everyone had on masks.”

The testing environment was modified, individuals wore masks, and social distancing was required. “Overall, I didn’t feel unsafe,” he says.

Taking the exam in July and receiving a passing score made it possible for Savian to obtain an attorney position this year. He recently joined Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo, LLP in Charlotte, where he will work in their litigation practice group. “I think in hindsight I am content with the way things turned out. I passed the exam. I did well enough to practice in every jurisdiction, and I didn’t get COVID! That’s the good part of it all. But I think a lot of folks — their lives were uprooted by the Board’s decision.”

With the exam behind him, Savian looks forward to making a difference both as a lawyer and as a person. He would like to see a program created that would facilitate more African Americans in law schools and that would encourage them as they are attending law school and passing the bar exam — a mentoring program for African American males. “We are underrepresented in the legal profession and in law schools. I think there are a lot of folks in law school who are black males who are not seeing people look like them, and this can really affect them.”

Savian also enjoys volunteering with organizations that assist the homeless population in Charlotte.

Melissa McKinneyMelissa McKinney, Wake Forest University School of Law

Melissa McKinney, a native of Marietta, Georgia, moved to North Carolina to attend Davidson College, where she studied history. After graduating from college, she wanted to stay in North Carolina, and she attended Wake Forest University School of Law. When we spoke, she had just completed her first full day after being sworn in as an attorney.

Melissa is the first person in her family who has attended law school, and becoming a lawyer was a lifelong ambition. At a young age, she began thinking about a career in law. As the youngest of four children — there is a 12-year age gap between her and her oldest sibling — conversations about careers were frequent. “My oldest brother was always trying to talk me out of being an attorney. He’s like, ‘you just sit at a desk all day and you read and you write. Doesn’t that sound boring to you?’ and I was like, ‘No, that sounds great.’”

Her experiences helped to solidify her plans. “My parents had friends who were attorneys, and I talked to them as I got older.” Becoming an attorney fit her personality and interests.

During her 3L year, she worked as an intern at Blanco Tackabery until March of this year. Now, she is an associate attorney with the firm. Because her position was scheduled to begin in September, she planned to take the July exam. Studying for it, even during a normal year, would have been challenging because of the rigors involved.

“I think one of the hardest parts of studying for the bar exam is the mental exhaustion and not really having an accurate way to gauge your study. Although bar prep courses all provide statistics on MBE practice exams, there are still success stories about people who didn’t take it seriously and passed, and stories about people who worked very hard and yet did not pass. I think it can be hard to determine where you fall.”

From April through June, COVID-19 closures were in full effect, and Melissa, like other test takers, could only study from home, which was challenging. “Not having access to my school’s library for bar prep was really hard in the beginning.” Weeks before she planned to take the exam, the libraries opened, and she had a place to go for focused study. She was glad. “The public libraries in Winston opened in July, and that gave me a chance to get out of my apartment and really put in the hours I needed to.”

In the months leading up to the bar exam, Melissa hoped for more communication from the Board than what she received. In prior years, the date of the exam would have been set and not variable, testing conditions would have been standard, and there would be no risk for contracting a deadly virus, but during the pandemic, details were open to change, and the health risk was a real concern.

“We knew Raleigh was not doing well compared to other parts of North Carolina, and the Triangle area was having higher numbers, and I think Charlotte was spiking.” Days prior to the test, Melissa learned of the Board’s decision to lower the passing score by two points. “This seemed more like a conciliatory measure that failed to adequately address the concern that most of us had about gathering in a large group in one room for several hours over two days. I largely felt disappointed and dismissed by the decision to have the exam because I did not think that the safety measures were going to be enough.”

The uncertainty of whether she would have the chance to take the test made studying more difficult. Not knowing what to expect was especially challenging. “That definitely made it harder to focus on some days.”

At the same time, she became even more driven to give it her all. “It was anxiety-inducing to have to study while waiting for an exam that could be pushed back at any time. The bar exam requires you to put your all in, but it’s not sustainable to do that for more than two and a half months. For most people, it is our first time, and hopefully, our only time. You do want to put everything in.”

The Board communicated what the safety measures would be and that these measures were carried out on the exam days. “The NCBLE told us ahead of time what the safety measures were going to be: temperature check, social distance check-in, social distancing in the bathrooms and the exam room, asking if we had any recent exposures to COVID-19. These were all largely executed as they said.”

Social distancing when exiting was one area that might have been improved upon. Melissa noticed that, while leaving the building, a number of people were exiting at once. “The proctors also tried staggering our departure from the exam room, but that only worked to some extent. When we exited, they dismissed us by quadrant, but each quadrant had about 70 people in it. I took it in the largest room. It was kind of up to you to leave the space.”

The exam was a reminder of what might have been, and what used to be — a time not long ago when students could safely study, meet together, and converse in person. “For a lot of us I think it was the first time we had seen our classmates since our schools made the switch to online learning.” She adds, “I did get the sense that people wanted to see each other and commiserate over the exam.”

Ultimately, Melissa is glad to have taken the bar this summer. “I certainly cannot deny the benefits of having taken the UBE in July. I’m also very fortunate that I did not get sick.”

Now that the exam is over, Melissa is enjoying her area of practice, estate planning law. As a law student, she volunteered with the Wills for Heroes program that took place in Winston-Salem. She hopes to have another opportunity to help and looks forward to being a part of the Young Lawyers Division.

She is grateful to be working in the career she dreamed of since she was young.

Zachary JohnsonZachary Johnson, Campbell Law School

Zachary Johnson is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and he enjoys calling Raleigh home. “It’s just such a beautiful place. It feels so young and growing and vibrant.” For the last three years, he attended Campbell Law School. He previously lived in Chapel Hill, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in management and society at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before attending UNC, Zach was a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps for four years. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune.

“That’s what brought me to North Carolina,” he shares.

His interest in the law began while he was a marine. “I had a friend who was a JAG. He was an officer, a lawyer in the army. He was one of the first lawyers that I met. He explained to me what he did on a daily basis. I was an enlisted infantryman, so my experience and his experience were totally polarized. He and I talked, and he told me what his job was like, and I just thought it was so fascinating.

After transferring to UNC from community college, Zach obtained a position on the undergraduate honor court, an opportunity he says had a profound impact on his decision to pursue the law as a career. As part of his role, he represented students who had been accused of plagiarism on the side of the defense, and faculty on the side of the prosecution.

Like his experiences, his reading also continued to play a role in his interest in the law.

“At that time, Bryan Stevenson’s ‘Just Mercy’ had come out. And it just so happened to be about what I was having a growing interest in at that time.” As his service and interests came together, becoming a lawyer was the natural path. “It was like the product of the stars lining up and having these opportunities and coming across these different people and places.”

Zach began law school at the Campbell Law School in 2017, and he also became involved in the NCBA Law Student Division as a student ambassador.

After three years, he began to study for the bar exam. As he weighed the two available options, taking the exam in July or postponing until February of 2021, he considered the risks. “It was compulsory. I was not so much worried about catching the coronavirus as I was worried about not being able to start looking for work until March of next year. I was also worried about getting sick and possibly passing it to a family member.”

As the test approached, Zach made the decision to take the exam even as he petitioned to have it postponed or moved to an online, at-home format. He was concerned for those in his immediate family as well as his fellow students who would need to postpone the exam until it was safe for them to take it. “Over the summer I worked with several classmates and friends to have it postponed or take it remotely. I signed a petition with several of my classmates. There were a handful of people in my graduating class who couldn’t take the bar because they had a condition or their family member has a condition.”

Zach hoped for the opportunity to take the exam remotely, so that everyone would have had the opportunity to sit for the exam. “Doing so would have given everyone the chance to sit for the exam safely.”

As he prepared to take the bar exam, the friends around him were an encouragement. Zach was able to utilize the library and to meet with his study group using social distancing measures. “Our school stayed open. Of course, we practiced social distancing, and there was hand sanitizer everywhere and signs and guideposts to promote safety. I was able to meet with classmates and friends and study together.”

Zach’s study group was especially beneficial. “We met up around 8 or 9 in the morning and finished around 6 or 7 every day. We commiserated together but kept each other accountable, too. Without them, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to complete the course or pass the exam.”

Zach remembers the day of the exam, and the safety measures: masks were required, and social distancing was a part of the check-in process and seating arrangements. “While checking in, the ground was marked to keep everyone six feet apart. Our temperatures were checked at the door, too. Once inside, we were assigned seats at tables that seemed to have at least 6 feet of space between them.”

Despite these precautions, Zach remembers the emotions present during those two days. Concerns about the number of people in the room, the virus, and its ramifications were a part of the experience. “There was no measure in the world that would’ve negated the fear that accompanied being in a large building with hundreds of other people, all day, for two days. Masks or not, we were all breathing the same air.”

The number of individuals in the room was one factor that contributed to stress, and the exam itself was a second and more pressing one. Deep breaths could have helped, but having a face covering made this difficult. “The masks made test anxiety worse as it was harder to breathe. There were several times I was tempted to poke my nose out to take a deep breath and calm my nerves.”

Zach was overjoyed to have received a passing score, but it took several weeks to learn the good news. “I tried to relax but it was a difficult few weeks.” Five weeks later, he learned he had passed the bar exam. “I was at the hardware store. I had to rush home. It was amazing. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

With the exam behind him, Zach is pursuing a position in criminal, family, or bankruptcy law. “Overall, I would love to work with a team in the Triangle where I can serve clients and continue a path of growth.”

Roshan PatelRoshan Patel, Duke University School of Law

Roshan Patel attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an undergraduate, where he double majored in political science and philosophy. From taking courses in philosophy, he honed his critical thinking skills, and thought about obtaining a graduate degree in philosophy. Instead, he went to law school. Knowing he would be able to use his skills in a practical way drew him to a career as an attorney.

During mid-March, he had just returned to the United States from India, where he was traveling with his family. He stops for a moment to consider how his experience would have been different had he not left India that particular weekend. “My whole schedule almost got thrown off because I was in India in mid-March. I was only there for one week, so I left before all the lockdowns, but my parents got stuck for about a month and a half, so I wouldn’t have gotten back from India in mid-June if I had not left when I did.”

Roshan’s preparations for the exam began about four months prior to the test. He wanted to give himself ample time to study in a way that was conducive to a healthy work-life balance. “At Duke, we ended classes in March, so I started studying early. I had four months rather than most people who had three months. Four months was less work per day.”

Now, he resides in Charlotte, where he is working as an associate attorney at Mayer Brown. His practice areas include finance and transactional law, and he enjoys his new role.

Because he was slated to begin a position in October, he is glad that he went forward with the exam, even though there were risks involved with taking it in person.

He explains that, at the outset of the pandemic, he thought he would begin a position with the firm in early 2021, but then, the firm gave them the option to begin in October of 2020. “I did not want to take the exam while I was working. I might forget a lot of information I learned before I started working, and I didn’t think I would have the time to pick up the material again. I never thought I would delay anyway. I guess I just took it.”

Even if diploma privilege was an option, Roshan says he would prefer to have taken the exam in July. He also considers that some individuals might not have been in a position to take the exam. “I am speaking as someone who was able to study in a quiet home with an office and no health risk factors, so I understand others may have had legitimate concerns over the way the bar exam was held due to personal health reasons or not having adequate access to study space or technology.”

After months of studying, he took the exam in July, and he was thankful for the safety measures in place. One factor he suggests could have been improved was the spacing arrangement on the test site. While the NCBLE had separated students across several buildings, the arrangements might have been modified.

“There were a lot of people in the room. Everybody was social distancing, but in the bathroom line, it got so long, and eventually, people were pretty close to each other. Even during breaks, people were talking close to each other.” Still, he was not overly concerned during the two-day period. “Overall, I think the setup could have been better and social distancing could have been better enforced, but I didn’t feel unreasonably unsafe.”

Looking back on his experience, he felt fortunate for how everything played out, and that he was able to focus on the exam. “There were two people per this long table. The person I was with was a really cool guy. We chatted, and he was really relaxed. So I think it helped. We didn’t talk about the exam during the breaks, so it made it less stressful.” Even though he noticed the mask while he was taking the exam, his attention was on earning a passing score. “The only thing that could have changed was the fact that I was wearing a mask and two hours in, it was getting hot. When you take the bar exam, you have adrenaline kicking in. It was like, ‘I am just focused on the exam. I don’t care about anything else right now.’”

As he thinks back on his experience, he recalls how challenging it was for his friends who took the exam in different states. “At Duke, only 10-20 percent of students stay in North Carolina after law school, so when I am talking to my friends, they are all taking bars in other states.” For his classmates, the bar exam was not a three- or four-month process. Instead, the experience was prolonged because of delays in the testing date.

“I have a bunch of friends who were taking it in New York, Texas, New Mexico — they all wish they had what I did, to take it on the regular date, because now after they changed it, it was a mess, especially in New York. I had friends who were taking it in August, then September, then October. I am kind of glad North Carolina did not change the date. But I feel can say it hindsight. I couldn’t say it before the fact.”

Looking back, he is glad to have gone forward with the exam and to be working as an attorney now. “My job started in October, and for those who were still seeking jobs, passing the bar earlier rather than later was a huge burden removed.”

Mackenzie CerasoMackenzie Ceraso, Elon University School of Law

Mackenzie Ceraso earned her law degree at Elon University. A native of Charlotte, Mackenzie left the Queen City for college when she attended Western Carolina University, where she received a degree in political science. She did not always know that she would work in the legal field. While studying at WCU, she considered becoming a politician. After thinking about the judicial branch and talking to her professors, she moved forward with law school and finished this spring. She returned to Charlotte, where she now resides and is pursuing a position as an attorney.

Passing the bar exam this July marked the finish line for Mackenzie’s law school career. It was her second time taking the exam. She had previously studied for and taken it in February of 2020, when her score was just a few points short of passing.

For Mackenzie, there was no question that she would move forward with retaking the exam in July. “I am a single person, and I had the ability to quarantine for two weeks after the exam, so I felt like the reward outweighed the risk of exposure. The hardest part was seeing how other states were handling the bar exam. It seemed like every day, there would be a new state that either moved the exam or switched it to an online format.”

Leading up to the July test date, Mackenzie’s road to passing the exam was marked by changes she did not anticipate. While the exam process may have been familiar for her, there were a number of differences between the February exam and the one administered in July.

For one thing, the NCBLE lowered the scores required for passing by two points, which she learned only days before she would take the exam again. The score she received in February would have qualified as a passing score in July. “The Board recognizing that this is a different circumstance, and then lowering the required score — I think that was a great change. However, that didn’t apply retroactively.” Mackenzie suggests that by applying this change to previous test takers and allowing their scores to qualify as passing, fewer individuals would have been present in the July exam. “I understand the decision, but that could have helped with how many overall people were attending the bar exam.”

Mackenzie’s preparation for the exam was to some extent more difficult than before because of COVID-19 closures. “For the exam in February, I had a rotation of places I would study like the library, various coffee shops, and my home office. Studying during the pandemic was tougher because I was only able to study in my home office. It was definitely harder. But it might have been harder for first-time takers because they are looking at everything whereas I was looking at specific areas of the law I needed to improve on.” Mackenzie also wore a mask while studying.

Traveling during the pandemic also had its challenges. “Since I was from Charlotte, I stayed in a hotel. There was a different cleaning schedule. There was a whole set of rules that you had to follow. I thought I was going to have a breakfast, and then it was like no, wait, I have to figure out breakfast now.”

At the exam site, there were temperature checks before people entered the building, and masks were required. “In terms of actually taking the test, there weren’t a lot of changes other than the different check-in process with the temperature check and wearing a mask. For the most part it was similar.” She also contemplates sitting at a table with a fellow test taker. Each applicant sat at the opposite end of the table. “It was longer than 6 feet, but people might have felt safer if they put plexiglass up or if we were sitting the other way.”

Mackenzie was glad to see friends from Elon sitting at nearby tables. “I had some nerves about retaking and going through the process again. My strategy was to not think about COVID at all. It was ‘I am there to take the test and pass.’ Seeing friendly faces was helpful for me.” She continues, “While taking the exam my adrenaline kicked in and I really didn’t notice I had a mask on.”

When she found out she had passed the bar exam, she was glad to have the final step in her law school career. “It’s a good feeling. When I started law school, I never thought I’d see this day. It seemed so far away. Being on the other side now, it feels like a huge accomplishment.” She adds, “I am now thankful that I took the exam in July and became licensed before some states even took the exam. “

As far as her plans for the future, she would like to pursue estate planning, and is also open to other areas of law. She has internship experience in legal aid and in domestic violence law. She hopes to obtain a position in Charlotte.

Elizabeth KeenumElizabeth Keenum, North Carolina Central University School of Law

Elizabeth Keenum, originally from Robeson County, now resides in Southern Pines. Since July of 2020, she has taken the bar exam, moved, been sworn in as an attorney, and started a new position as Assistant District Attorney for Richmond and Anson counties. Accepting the position was the culmination of her goal to become an attorney.

Her aspiration to enter the legal profession began when she was 7 years old. She recalls the moment with clarity. “I told my parents I was going to be a lawyer. And they said, well, we don’t have anybody in our family that even graduated college, so how are you going to be a lawyer? And I was like, ‘I’m going to do it. I am going to be the first person in my family to graduate from college and law school and be an attorney.’”

Elizabeth’s parents and family were committed to helping her pursue this career and made it possible for her to learn as much as she could at a young age.

Her aspiration to become a lawyer continued to grow during her teen years, when she had opportunities to observe the role of a lawyer inside the courtroom. Elizabeth remembers an important experience. Her aunt had a friend who was a defense attorney in Robeson County. During the summer, her dad would drop her off at the courthouse. “I would just sit and watch,” she says.

Observing a lawyer firsthand was only the beginning, and she enjoyed becoming actively involved in a program called Teen Court and Youth Services. Elizabeth was committed to making a difference in her community. “I started volunteering as a journey member and I went to some trainings and became what they considered a student attorney, where you represent first-time offenders who have small misdemeanor charges. I did that for probably 7 years. I even continued that when I went to undergrad. So that was a selling point for me, and I realized then I wanted to be a prosecutor.”

Elizabeth attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she obtained her undergraduate degree in political science and government, and she went to law school at North Carolina Central University School of Law. As she approached the bar exam, she planned to move forward with taking the exam. She was determined to make the best of the situation.

“It was there to decide whether I was going to be able to practice law in North Carolina or not. There was nothing I could do to change it, and I just had to go with it, and I did. A lot of people wanted to ask for a diploma privilege, and from my knowledge the state of North Carolina had never done anything like that, so I didn’t think they would in this situation when there was a way for them to hold the exam in person.”

Reflecting on diploma privilege, she identified a potential risk had the state granted it to students graduating in the spring of 2020. “There are some people who wouldn’t have passed the exam, and if we let them practice anyway, malpractice suits are going to be filed and reported to the State Bar. And I can understand why the Board of Law Examiners wanted to avoid that.”

For Elizabeth, taking the bar exam in person was preferable, even if it posed a potential health risk, and she did not waver at the thought of taking it this past July. “Because I had spent so much time and energy studying, three and a half months, I was going to take the risk. I want to practice law that bad. I wanted to be a prosecutor that bad. If I get COVID-19, I’ll just get it and deal with it two weeks after. For me, I tried not to stress about it.”

Taking the test in person, rather than in an alternative format, such as from home, had several advantages. The paper copy of the exam was one important one. “I couldn’t imagine not having a paper copy in front of me when I was able to read the questions and underline and highlight.”

Another benefit to an in-person exam was stable internet access. “Having to rely solely on my computer and my internet at home to take an exam is more frightening than to have to sit there during a pandemic. I accepted it and used my time to study and to practice using a mask and prepare myself for those two days.”


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She tried to simulate the testing conditions, and as she looks back on the experience, she felt prepared. She says, “I think the Board of Law Examiners did a really good job of making sure people were socially distant and safe about everything.”

“They told you to bring your hand sanitizer, your water, and your computer. They took everyone’s temperatures ahead of time while we were standing outside waiting. They checked all of your materials without touching your stuff and even your proctors had on gloves when they were passing out materials and picking them up. So I would say I was prepared and that the environment didn’t catch me by surprise at all.”

Once the exam was over, Elizabeth had to wait several weeks for the results to arrive. During that time, she was preparing for another change, a move from Cary to Southern Pines. She had much to look forward to as she anticipated her new job, but questioning what was next was a part of the waiting period. She wondered if she would experience relief upon finding out she passed the exam, or if she would have to prepare to retake the exam, wait until February for the second exam, and then wait for her results again.

When the good news arrived, it was a joy for her. “We got our results on my fiancé’s birthday. We had just left lunch for his birthday, and I got an email from the Board of Law Examiners that something had been posted to our portal.” Elizabeth was in a parking lot when she learned she had passed the exam. She was thrilled. When she shared the news with her parents, they were elated.

As an assistant district attorney, she looks forward to gaining trial experience. Elizabeth worked as an intern in the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina and envisions herself in a similar role one day. “I’d love to be a federal prosecutor. For now, this is a great starting point. I want to learn everything I can here.”

She is grateful to have made it through the bar exam during the pandemic. “It was a very different experience, but I appreciate that they weighed all the options they could, and they figured that this was going to be the best. And just for me, by the grace of God it worked out.”

Jessica Junqueira is communications manager for the North Carolina Bar Association.

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