Law students taking the bar exam have it tough: Three years hitting the books. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition. And all of it, potentially wasted with a few failed attempts at the dreaded state-administered test.
So in late July, with one day of the grueling session behind them, thousands of law students were surprised to find that they couldn't upload their answers using the software they purchased from Florida-based ExamSoft Worldwide Inc.
Third-year law students with mountains of debt were perhaps not the best crowd to tick off.
They sued. And they sued. And they sued.
"On the long list of things about which exam takers should be worried, wondering whether they will be able to turn in their exams for grading should be at the very bottom," according to a lawsuit filed in Washington state. "It is hard to imagine anything more basic in an exam than being able to turn it in for grading."
In Northern California, Eastern Washington and Illinois, students burned by the botched test claimed direct harm and damage to their future earnings. They're also seeking class action status and looking for other students harmed by the failed test.
The company, through a public relations agency, declined to comment on the litigation.
No one yet knows whether a student failed the bar because of the upload errors. One San Francisco plaintiff said she was still suffering because she hadn't gotten a clear answer by the time she sued on Aug. 8.
The crux of the argument is that ExamSoft should have seen the problems coming -- a tidal wave of test-takers operating on new software -- and did nothing to solve them.
The company said in a statement that it believes the problems were caused by a software configuration issue. The issues were exacerbated by the number of students using the servers, but not caused by them.
"We can confirm that this was not simply a matter of the large volume associated with the July 2014 exam," according to a statement released by ExamSoft marketing vice president Ken Knotts in response to questions from The Associated Press. "In fact, we have handled greater volumes of exam uploads in the past. "
He continued: "Unfortunately, (recent) upgrades, made in an attempt to improve the exam taker experience, played a role in the post-exam processing delay that some bar exam takers experienced on July 29, despite system field performance review and ongoing monitoring."
The company declined to say how many students it expected to take the test, how many students it was capable of handling and how many students it served. The company also would not discuss whether it conducted any dry-runs before the exam, and if it did, what the results of those tests showed. (continued...)
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