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Bar Exam Gets Hate Mail From Law School Prez

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 09, 2015 6:58 AM

"No one who graduates from an ABA-accredited law school with a strong GPA should have to take the bar exam." At least this is the opinion of the president of Brooklyn Law School, Nicholas Allard. "The test is "expensive, and not a great measure of competence to actually practice law."

Allard's opinion echoes those of many frustrated law students who regard the exam as an outmoded relic of law school mythos and are calling for it to be abolished. He is part of an increasing number of law school professors and professionals who have previously kept silent with regards to the bar exam and its monolithic presence. When bar exam passage rates have dropped to a depressingly low level, the time seems right to question the exam itself.

The Growing Discontent

Allard and an increasing number of academics (not just the law students) have been critical of what they see as the all too powerful National Conference of Bar Examiners. Allard opines that rather than safeguarding the integrity of the nation's legal profession, the NCBE acts more like a "self interested lobbying group" and that it pushes an agenda that distorts information about law students rather than driving to the root of the problem.

Speaking of large, powerful groups, bar preparation itself is a big business -- and costly. Bar/bri, America's most recognized bar preparation company, is at the forefront. The aim is to get the applicant to take the bar exam the fewest number of times possible and students fall over themselves to pay. Between costs of a prep program and work opportunity costs, the bar exam can work up to be a $50,000 test pretty easily.

What to Do About the Bar Exam?

Currently, fingers are being pointed, but there don't seem to be any real solutions in sight. However, Allard notes that students who graduate in the 20th percentile of the class at Brooklyn Law School "almost always pass the bar." What this observation does is point out that some students are, by necessity, at least better at taking tests than others. Why not structure admission to the state bars based on a meeting of minimum requirements?

Alternatively, Shannon Achimalbe at Above the Law thinks the bar exam should be mended, not abolished. Her proposal makes a lot of sense: let 3L students elect to cram for the bar exam so that they don't have to take on the responsibilities of bar review right after graduation. The students who sit in law review? They most likely have very little to worry about anyway.

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