Why The Bar Exam Is Under Fire
The bar exam just can’t catch a break these days. Back in November, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), took a lot of heat for labeling the July 2014 cohort of exam takers “less able” than the 2013 group. They also placed the blame on the law schools for not preparing students adequately.
Not surprisingly, nearly 80 law school deans took offense and responded by demanding answers on how the test questions were chosen and scored. Erica Moeser, president of the NCBE, hasn’t responded to those requests. In a phone interview, Moeser told The New York Times that “the exam is an indispensable safeguard against unqualified practitioners” and “it is a basic test of fundamentals that has no justification other than protecting the consumer.”
The critics make plenty of arguments against the exam. They claim it is a waste of time and expenses. They argue that It is basically memorization and a poor measurement of the ability to “lawyer.” They even add that clients do not benefit from attorneys who can pass an exam.
The thing is, many of these critics are law school deans. Kristin Booth Glen is the former dean and a current professor at City University of New York School of Law. She says the bar exam “does nothing to measure lawyering skills.” Stephen Ferruolo, dean of the University of San Diego School of Law, also says it is a flawed test and the students were not “less able” than previous classes.
As of now, Wisconsin is the only state that doesn’t require bar passage. However, Iowa and Arizona have been exploring the idea of switching bar. In 2014, Iowa attempted to enact a “diploma privilege” where students graduating with a degree from an in-state accredited school would not have to pass the bar to become a licensed lawyer. For example, graduates of the University of Iowa School of Law could begin practicing immediately after graduating in Iowa. The measure failed to pass last autumn, but Iowa’s bar committee asked for further recommendations to change the process. Arizona took it a step further. The state changed its requirements to allow students to sit for the bar during their final year of law school to help reduce expenses and time spent after graduating.
These slow and minimal changes show just how difficult it is to alter the status quo. Nevertheless, it further opens the door for states and the country as a whole to spend some time re-evaluating how everything is done in legal education.
Source: The New York Times
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