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Court honors FSU Law’s O’Connor for work with bar exam applicants during the pandemic

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Dean O'Connor with Justice Polston and Chief Justice Canady

FSU Law Dean Erin O’Hara O’Connor with Justice Ricky Polston, left, and Chief Justice Charles Canady.

Chief Justice Charles Canady on Wednesday recognized Florida State University College of Law Dean Erin O’Hara O’Connor for contributions to prepare law students and law school graduates for the Florida bar examination, especially in her role as registrant advocate.

Dean O’Connor was named registrant advocate by the Supreme Court in 2020, a role created to address problems experienced administering the bar exam during the pandemic.

She “gave extraordinary volunteer service as the sole Registrant Advocate in Florida, communicating with and making herself available to all 3,137 applicants who took the examination, listening to their concerns, assisting them in navigating the pre-examination process and, crucially, providing a consistent voice of reassurance and calm to the examinees as they faced the uncertainty of a first-ever online administration of the bar exam during a global pandemic,” according to a proclamation signed and presented by Canady at the start of oral argument at the court.

Dean O’Connor came to the FSU College of Law in 2016. Her recognition focused on her contributions as registrant advocate. Dean O’Connor was asked by the court to work with bar examinees unable to take the 2020 summer exam due to pandemic test failures. Under the program, examinees could use an online form to contact both the registrant advocate and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners about issues like software or testing accommodations.

The registrant advocate position was created after the regular July 2020 bar exam was canceled due to health and safety concerns in the coronavirus pandemic. A rescheduled August exam was later canceled because of failures in an online testing system.

In her role as registrant advocate, Dean O’Connor was in regular communication with applicants preparing for the October 2020 examination, the deans of Florida law schools, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and the court both in personal responses as well as through periodic reports to all applicants for the examination.

Chief Justice Canady expressed the Supreme Court’s “heartfelt thanks to Dean O’Connor for her dedicated service and immense contributions to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and, more importantly, to the preparation and support of examinees for the Bar examination.”

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