Search This Blog

Friday, March 20, 2015

A New Round of Bar Exam Criticism

Law school graduates around the country took the bar exam at the end of February. In the exam's wake, commentators are questioning the necessity of the test. Last summer's bar exam prompted a notable wave of criticism in light of low passage rates and some blunt comments by the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. That criticism appears to have continued into the spring.

The New York Times reports:

For decades, law school graduates have endured a stressful rite of passage, spending the first 10 weeks after classes end taking cram courses in the arcane details of the law before sitting down for the grueling, days-long bar exam. Those who do not pass cannot practice law, at least in nearly all the states and the District of Columbia that consider the exam the professional standard. 
But that standard, so long unquestioned, is facing a new round of scrutiny — not just from the test takers but from law school deans and some state legal establishments. Some states, including Arizona, Iowa and New Hampshire, are exploring or have adopted other options, questioning the wisdom of relying on a single written test as the gateway to legal practice. 
The debate over the exam is not new, but it broke out in the open after the results of last summer’s exam were released in the fall, showing that the 51,005 test takers had the poorest results in nearly a decade.
The article explores several innovative approaches to bar exams, such as allowing students to take the bar exam in their final year of law school. Arizona has implemented this approach, which reduces the amount of time that students need to wait before exam results.

The article also notes that several states, including Iowa, have considered adopting Wisconsin's approach and doing away with the bar exam for students who graduate from in-state law schools. I have gone on record arguing that this proposal is misguided.

But I think that approaches like Arizona which could reduce the burden of the bar exam without eliminating it are worthy of exploration. And Derek Muller has this post noting that California's bar examiners are considering reducing the length of the bar exam from three days to two. Muller notes that this would make the exam less grueling, that those taking the exam would not need to spend as much on hotels, and that this change could cut down on the time it takes to grade exams.

I think that reducing California's bar exam to two days is a very good idea. The idea is not a new one, however, and I am worried that any decision or discussion on the issue may end up being delayed in the same way it was two years ago. My hope is that the continuing criticism of bar exams will prompt the Committee of Bar Examiners to give more serious consideration to the proposal.

No comments:

Post a Comment