Bar Exam Alternatives Give Licensure Candidates Opportunity to Actually Pratice Law

Bar Exam Alternatives Give Licensure Candidates Opportunity to Actually Pratice Law

Jordan Furlong, a legal sector analyst, said that the bar exam is a grueling ordeal and it doesn’t actually assess a candidate’s readiness to practice law.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously voted in favor of a plan to support two alternatives to attorney licensure, involving experiential learning and supervised practice, in addition to its current use of the Uniform Bar Examination. Also, the state supreme court encouraged the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners to develop an implementation plan for the alternatives in six months’ time.

The proposed new routes would provide law students with two years of specific training, including legal writing, research and issue spotting. Comparisons have been made to the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, which when completed allows state bar admission with no exam.

Furlong said that he supports these new routes to licensure because they give a licensure candidate the opportunity to actually engage in the work of a lawyer.

“They diversify and enhance the path towards lawyer licensure by adding “supervised experience” to the existing elements of “knowledge of the law” and “understanding of professional responsibility.” They deepen the candidate’s competence and enhance their self-confidence,” said Furlong. “Would you prefer to hire a lawyer qualified by a written exam, or a lawyer who acquired the basic skills of lawyering by direct supervised engagement in real or simulated practice?”

If approved, Furlong said that the new pathways could start a chain reaction in other states.

“Wisconsin already waives the bar exam for graduates of accredited in-state law schools, and New Hampshire helped inspire Oregon with the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program at the Franklin Pierce School of Law,” he said. “But Oregon’s task force report has been cited by the State Bar of California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the Bar Exam, which heard testimony from the task force chair late last year. New York has reported similar reflections. Either of these states adopting bar exam alternatives would amplify the impact of Oregon’s move many times over; if they both did so, the game would truly change for good.”


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