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Indiana applicants can use laptops to take bar exam

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While the state Board of Law Examiners considers making substantive changes to the Indiana Bar Exam, technology has already ushered in a change to how the test is taken.

February 2012 applicants were the first allowed to use their laptops on the first day of the exam. They could type their essays as opposed to handwriting their thoughts in the traditional blue book.

The push for the ability to use computers came from the test-takers themselves, said Brad Skolnik, executive director of the Indiana Board of Law Examiners. Over and over as the applicants turned in their essays, they commented this was the first time they had ever written their compositions by hand.

Use of laptops during the test has been growing dramatically. Since the initial introduction of computers when 60 applicants participated in the laptop pilot program, the number of keyboard users jumped to an estimated 60 percent in July 2012 and rose again to nearly 70 percent in February 2013.

Skolnik anticipates 80 percent of test-takers will be using laptops in the near future.

“We’ve been very pleased with the reaction we’ve received and the success of the program,” he said. “Test-takers as a whole have reacted very favorably to having the option to use laptops.”

When Cohen & Malad LLP attorney TaKeena Thompson took the bar exam in 2009, she did not have the option of using a laptop. She admitted she was a little distressed at the beginning because, like many attorneys of her generation, she used computers all through law school to type notes and take tests.

Yet, Thompson discovered she liked handwriting her essays. She believes she understood the material and presented her thoughts better than if she had used her laptop. In fact, she has since advised some test-takers to opt for writing the essays by hand.

Indiana was one of the last states to allow laptops into the bar exam. The state uses software from ExamSoft, a national vendor that provides bar exam programs to a majority of the bar exams across the country.

At present, only the essay portion of the bar exam can be taken on a computer. The Multistate Bar Exam multiple choice questions still must be completed by hand, but Skolnik expects in the near future that part of the test will become automated as well.

Applicants download the program from ExamSoft onto their own computer. They will not be able to access the software until exam day and once they launch the program, they will not be able to access anything else on their computers.

Being able to use a laptop, Skolnik said, ensures applicants have the opportunity to use many of the same exam-taking skills they used in law school.

In addition to using their own computers, applicants must pay an extra $125 for the laptop option. The fee covers the cost of the software as well as helps pay for the extra IT support in the venue where the bar exam is given, Skolnik said.

Stephanie Williams, a clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Dinsmore, paid the fee and used her laptop during the essay portion of the bar exams in both Indiana and Illinois. Initially, she said having a computer helped her boost her scores.

“If I wrote it, I could not say I would have had the same outcome,” she said.

Then she stopped and reconsidered, noting if she had practiced taking the bar by hand she likely would have passed. Still, she continued, the computer enabled her to neatly insert additional points into her essays whereas if writing by hand she would have had to make a notation up the side of the paper. Moreover, her handwriting can be illegible when she is writing quickly, so the examiners might not have been able to decipher her thoughts.

Skolnik said the BLE does not keep statistics of the passage rate of those who use laptops versus those who take the test by hand.

Williams’ advice to exam-takers is not to make changes on test day. Whatever the applicants did in law school, she said, they should not switch for the bar exam.•
 

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

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  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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