So Long, Iowa Bar?

University of Iowa College of Law

Iowa Attempts To Mitigate Brain Drain

Law schools across the country are constantly scrambling to alleviate the brain drain of legal education. To avoid a mass exodus of law school graduates, the Iowa State Bar Association is tossing around the idea of implementing a diploma privilege clause for in-state law school graduates. The Iowa Supreme Court will rule on it soon. Is this the best way to plug the trickle of intelligent students leaving the state? Probably not. But maybe. OK. Definitely not. Unless you’re Wisconsin, I guess.
Yes, the bar is super annoying. It is an accomplishment just to get into and graduate from law school. And everyone has heard the broken-record warnings of accumulated debt upon graduation. Some are estimating it costs an additional $29,000 in Iowa to sit for the bar. Instead of going to work, graduates spend the early summer months exiled to libraries and quiet, secluded places. Then they take an exam that essentially tells them if the time and debt will eventually pay off or if they will spend additional months either inundated (again) in studies or worse—in an existential crisis while expressing their “artistic” sandwich-building skills at Subway.
Another argument for eliminating the bar for in-state students: From 2008 to 2013, only 6.8% of graduates from the University of Iowa and Drake failed the bar. But what if your attorney is one of the 6.8%? Or as Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins suggested, getting rid of the bar “could release incompetent attorneys into the public.” An exam like the bar is there for a reason.
So it is a necessary evil. And potentially unconstitutional to rid of anyway. According to a story from the Des Moines Register, the U.S. Constitution has an often-overlooked clause called the “Dormant Commerce Clause.” Essentially, it keeps states from creating self-serving beneficial laws at the expense of other states. For example, if someone from, say, Idaho decides she wants to practice law in Iowa, she will already be at a disadvantage to the Iowa graduates enjoying the diploma privilege.
What’s a flyover state trying to get young attorneys to stay home to do? Agree to the other portion of the proposal and enact the uniform bar exam. Iowa would be the 15th state to participate in the exam, which would allow Iowa attorneys to practice in the other 14 states and employers to recruit into those states. Everyone wins.
Stay tuned.
Sources: National Law Journal, Des Moines Register, Des Moines Register

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