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By Elizabeth Libro


When Apple, Inc. released its new MacBook Pro in December 2016 it included several upgraded features making it desirable to millions of tech savvy customers, including law students across the country.  These upgrades included a new Touch Bar at the top of the keyboard, which was designed to replace current function buttons.  The Touch Bar adapts to the users computer activity over time, giving the user intuitive shortcuts and recommended controls when the Touch Bar deems fit.  Additionally, the Touch Bar allows the user to easily navigate the computer files, share documents or information easily, format your text, and uses predictive input to help the user type messages, emails, or papers faster.


The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar is raising many concerns for Board of Bar Examiners across the country regarding the upcoming February 2017 Bar Exam.  Examsoft, a software company, released a statement on January 26, 2017 indicating that


“Exam administrators will want to ensure that the newest feature included with some MacBook Pro’s is disabled before a student begins their Exam.  By default, the Touch Bar will show predictive text depending on what the student is typing, compromising exam integrity.” (emphasis added)


Further, Examsoft explained to users how to disable the Touch Bar feature so that they would not be barred from using their laptop during the Bar.  If the feature is not disabled or the Board of Bar Examiners are not satisfied with the disabled feature, the law student is not allowed to use their laptop during the exam and instead may be required to handwrite their exam.


States such as North Carolina released instructions to Bar proctors, instructing them to ask if anyone is using a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar prior to the start of the exam.  If a student indicates that they are using such a computer, another proctor or an Examsoft technician needs to confirm that the feature is disabled.  The user prior to entering the exam room must disable the Touch Bar.  If they do not disable the feature prior to entering the exam site, they must handwrite their exam.


Other states such as Massachusetts, California, New York, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, have banned the laptop completely.  Test takers who have the new MacBook Pro are required to leave their laptop at home and handwrite the exam.  These states, among others, have stated that the new laptop “contains certain embedded features that makes it problematic for use.”  However, these states are sympathizing with test takers and allowing them to upload the exam onto a separate, acceptable computer prior to the exam in order to still take the exam on a computer.


What does this mean for current law students seeking to take the upcoming February or July Bar?  Law students should diligently look at the examinations rules in their jurisdiction to determine whether or not their laptop conforms to the rules.   If the test taker does have a Touch Bar on their laptop, they should disable it as far in advance as possible to ensure they face no problems prior to taking the Bar Exam.


Student Bio:  Elizabeth is a 3L at Suffolk University Law School.  She is a Lead Note Editor on the Journal of High Technology Law, President of the Suffolk University Law School Softball Club, and Vice President of the Suffolk University Law School Women’s Law Association.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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