Legal Education

Bar exam alternatives on docket of ABA Legal Ed council

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erasing a standardized test form

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With some states already moving toward alternative attorney licensing, the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will consider a draft policy statement urging jurisdictions to consider a host of methods to licensure when it meets Friday, May 17.

Though the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools states that every bar candidate should be “examined by public authority to determine fitness for admission,” COVID-19 forced many jurisdictions to rethink the venerated-yet-dreaded bar exam. Early in the pandemic, many states offered emergency diploma privileges, but switched to remote bar exams by 2021.

Last year, Oregon approved apprenticeship as a method to licensure without taking the bar, and Washington followed suit, but also included a skills coursework options. Other states, including California and Minnesota, are currently considering proposals to license attorneys without the bar exam.

Wisconsin offers diploma privilege to graduates of its two law schools and New Hampshire offers several ways to pass the bar, including completion of specialized courses.

While the ABA controls accreditation of law schools, lawyer licensing is handled by individual jurisdictions via state courts or other entities.

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