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Oklahoma Lowers Bar Exam Standards

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 14, 2016 1:47 PM

It appears that Oklahoma's Supreme Court ruled in a split 5-4 decision to lower bar exam standards. Specifically, the state will adjust its acceptable MBE scaled score in response to ever faltering law school admissions rates.

Reactions from opponents have been clear from the dissent. We hope this isn't a new reality for law in this country.

5-4 Split

According to the ATL, Oklahoma's law schools have been steadily decreasing their admissions standards in lock step with the state's decrease in applications and bar pass rates. Not only has the number of applicants slid dramatically, so too has the number of successful takers of the bar exam. According to numbers re-posted by Above The Law, the July 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 bar pass rates fell to 83, 82, 79, and 68 percent respectively.

When You Want Something Done

But Oklahoma's law schools had been getting the jump on the state's Supreme Court long before the "dumbing down" of the state's bar exam was even before the justices. Like other schools across the nation, they had been gradually loosening standards for admission into schools, slowly taking in students that were, as Erica Moeser, president of the NCBE once put it, "less able" than their predecessors.

Oklahoma's Lawyer Problem

Oklahoma has a lawyer problem. There aren't enough attorneys. What attorneys there are in the pipeline are, by test-taking measures, poorer in quality. And the state still desperately needs them. But what does this do to the institution of law?

Justice Steven Taylor wrote his dissent against the move to lower bar standards. To him, the law exam acts as a consumer protection device and as a guarantee of quality. "The purpose of the bar examination is to screen applicants in such a way to protect the public and to protect the reputation of the legal profession. The bar examination should not be easy ... The action taken today by the majority is a mistake. I dissent."

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