Bar Exam

This state is creating a way to skip the bar exam and making it easier to pass for those who take it

  • Print

The Temple of Justice, where sessions of the Washington Supreme Court are convened. The court adopted alternative pathways to law licensure Friday. (Brian Logan Photography/Shutterstock)

The Washington Supreme Court has adopted alternative pathways to a law license, becoming the second state to do so in a little more than four months.

The state high court approved three ways to bypass a bar exam in Washington state, with different standards for law school graduates, law students and law clerks participating in a lawyer-tutoring program already in existence. All involve apprenticeships or internships.

The Washington Supreme Court adopted the changes in two March 15 orders, according to a press release. The Spokesman-Review (via @BarExamTutor), Law360 and have coverage.

The changes are based on recommendations by a task force that made two important findings, according to the press release. The task force found that the traditional bar exam “disproportionately and unnecessarily” blocks marginalized groups from law practice, and that the exam is “at best minimally effective for ensuring competent lawyers,” the press release says.

The Washington Supreme Court also lowered the passing score for the Uniform Bar Exam from 270 to 266, the cutoff score temporarily implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lower cutoff score is retroactive to February 2023 when the score was raised back to 270. The lower cutoff will remain in place until the state’s summer 2026 adoption of the NextGen bar exam, which focuses on real-world skills and practice.

Washington is the 16th state to adopt the NextGen exam, according to

In November, Oregon announced some law grads can also skip the bar exam, with an effective date in 2024. Graduates will have to complete 675 hours of work under the supervision of an experienced attorney and create a portfolio of legal work to be evaluated by bar examiners.

In Washington, the state supreme court will work with the Washington State Bar Association to develop a timeline and plan for implementation.

The three pathways in Washington are:

  • For law graduates, a six-month apprenticeship under the guidance of a qualified attorney, during which aspiring lawyers must complete three courses of standardized coursework.

  • For law students, 500 hours of work as a licensed legal intern and completion of 12 qualifying skills credits. A portfolio of work will also have to be completed.

  • For law clerks bypassing law school, 500 hours of work as a licensed legal intern and completion of additional standardized educational materials and benchmarks under the guidance of their tutors.

See also:

“Should law grads need to pass the bar to practice? Some say there is a better way”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.