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Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Time to Scrap the Bar Exam for Law Graduates?
The conversation about the efficacy and continued need for law school bar exams is nothing new. It isn't, however, an easy conversation to have. For decades, the test has been steered largely by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), a national organization that devises and administers crucial portions of the bar exams offered in each state. To complicate matters, most states also have additional, state-specific testing requirements which are administered by the state bars of each state.
One of the most common criticisms is the same that is often levied at most standardized tests-it does not adequately measure merit. To be sure, the various iterations of the exam across the states do in fact gauge a student's understanding of the law. Some states also test "state-specific" law, though all states test federal law, which is also a fundamental component of all law school curriculums.
The problem is that the passage rates are often dismal. California, for example, offers the exam twice a year. The overall pass rate for its February exam hovers around 40%. Some would argue that this is precisely why the exam should exist-as a sort of gate-keeper, weeding out unqualified attorneys.
Others, however, note the gap between material tested on bar exams, and the knowledge necessary for legal practice. Most exams test a huge multiplicity of subjects, for example, but most lawyers practice in a single field.
Bar exams are costly, and require an average of two months of full-time preparation. Graduating law students may be sitting on six-figure student debt, but unable to earn an income until they pass.
The wheels of change move slowly. It's unlikely that any modifications will happen soon or dramatically. But the conversation is stirring.
For recent New York Times discussion of the issue: New York Times >
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