Bar Exam Barrier Prevents South Korean USD Law Grad from Practicing in South Dakota

Bar Exam Barrier Prevents South Korean USD Law Grad from Practicing in South Dakota

A recent report from Dakota Free Press highlights the story of Jun Byung Park, a graduate from the University of South Dakota Law School who is unable to practice law in South Dakota due to his inability to pass the multiple-choice section of the bar exam.

Park, who is originally from South Korea, excelled during his time at USD Law, passing the essay and ethics portions of the bar exam. However, he failed the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) three times, struggling with the strict 2-hour time limit and having to choose just one answer when he saw multiple good options. After three failed attempts, the South Dakota Supreme Court declined to give Park another chance to take the exam, as required by state rules limiting bar exam attempts to three.

In his recent guest column in South Dakota Searchlight, Park argued that South Dakota’s adherence to the “controversial” National Conference of Bar Examiners testing process fails to provide a fair assessment across a diverse population of test-takers. He also noted that South Dakota’s lawyer pool is dwindling and the state can’t afford to turn away interested graduates like himself, especially as bar passage rates for USD Law graduates have dropped substantially in recent years.

Park stated he has a job offer waiting if he can get licensed in South Dakota, where he has formed friendships and wants to live and practice law. He called for South Dakota to consider alternatives like diploma privilege, which would allow USD Law graduates to practice law without passing the bar exam. South Dakota granted such diploma privilege until 1983.

The case highlights critiques of reliance on multiple-choice bar exams as the sole gateway to the legal profession. It also underscores workforce shortages in rural states like South Dakota, where even interested, qualified graduates struggle to join the bar under current testing regimes.


Full story here.

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