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Should Iowa eliminate bar exam for in-state law grads? State’s lawyers have mixed views

Posted Jul 14, 2014 9:30 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A proposal to nix the Iowa bar examination, as far as graduates of in-state law schools are concerned, has met with a mixed reception from the state's attorneys.

Some support the idea, arguing that the test doesn't measure knowledge and skills needed to practice law. But others say the bar exam does weed out those who most need to be eliminated from practice, and cite the unfairness of requiring only grads of out-of-state law schools to take the test, reports the Des Moines Register. A public comment period is due to expire at the end of the day on Monday.

The Iowa Supreme Court will make the final call on the state bar association's proposal to eliminate the bar exam. A public meeting is scheduled on Aug. 27.

Under the proposal, law graduates of Drake University and the University of Iowa who have taken required courses on Iowa law and pass a background check and legal ethics test would be allowed to practice immediately.

Among those who support the plan is the state's attorney general, Tom Miller. "I'm very sensitive to the debt that law students and all students have these days," he said. "It's particularly important for young lawyers that go into public service or into rural practice."

But District Judge Myron Gookin, who sits in Fairfield, disagrees.

"At a time when our world and the law is more complex than ever, however, I do not believe that giving our Drake and Iowa law students 'a pass' on the bar exam is prudent," Gookin wrote to the supreme court. "There is still a great value in the examination process. And, obviously, it also weeds out those candidates who are not qualified to practice."

Proponents of providing a diploma privilege for in-state law grads argue that less than 7 percent of first-time bar-takers failed the exam between 2008 and 2013.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "A second state considers allowing its law-school grads to skip the bar exam"

ABAJournal.com: "Is the bar exam a valuable test of law grads? Or an unnecessary expense for them?"

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