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Time to End the Bar Exam? Some Deans Say So.

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 23, 2015 11:55 AM

Congrats to the 3L's, 4L's and LLM's set to graduate this spring. You're finally ready to start learning about the law -- the actual, nitty-gritty laws of where you expect to practice. It's time for the bar exam.

Complaints over the bar exam are nothing new -- it's too high stakes, it's not an accurate measure of knowledge, it harms diversity, etc. These arguments are getting more attention recently, according to The New York Times, after the 2014 summer bar exams produced the worst results in over a decade.

Law Deans Against Law Exams?

Following the poor bar exam pass rate in 2014, President of the NCBE Erica Moeser claimed the low performance was because the test takers were "less able than the group that sat in July 2013." Many law school deans however, sensitive to the claim that their graduates are getting dumber, blamed the test. Over 80 demanded to know how the bar questions were chosen and scored.

Several law school deans have started speaking openly of getting rid of the bar exam. CUNY Law's dean says the exam "does nothing to measure lawyering skills," and simply creates barriers to entry. Her claims echo a 2002 statement by progressive law school teachers which argued for the elimination of the bar exam.

Experimenting with Alternatives

Several states are considering changing their bar exam requirements. While Iowa rejected a proposal to waive the exam for graduates of in-state schools, Wisconsin does exactly that. Some states are allowing for earlier test; California imposes a first year "baby bar" on unaccredited schools, and Arizona will allow students to take the bar during, not after, their final year.

New Hampshire as established an alternative licensing procedure, allowing portfolio-based licensing requirements for a select group of applicants. New York is considering something similar.

For the time being, however, there doesn't seem to be any widely accepted alternative to the bar exam -- but who knows what success questioning deans and alternative accreditations may have?

Do you think the bar is passe? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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