Bar Exam Negatively Impacted Hundreds of People, Says Lawyer

Bar Exam Negatively Impacted Hundreds of People, Says Lawyer

Jeff Church, a 2021 graduate of the University of South Dakota Law School, said that he does not believe in the bar exam in its current form.

An Army veteran of 30 years, Church said that he doesn’t plan to take the bar exam conducted by the South Dakota Board of Bar Examiners and is currently studying to receive his doctorate degree in USD’s sustainability program. According to Church, he supports Rep. Mary Fitzgerald’s (R-Spearfish) House Bill 1073, which would allow graduates of the USD Law School to practice law without taking the bar exam.

“It’s a stressful event that doesn’t test minimal competency to practice law,” Church told KELOLAND News. “Why do we care about a national-level exam that does not test South Dakota law?”

Church also believes the bar exam has negatively impacted hundreds of people.

“Depending on the year you look at, it’s about a 20 to 40 percent rate of failure,” Church said. “If you got 3 out of 10 failing every year and there’s two tests a year, that’s six people a year, multiplied by 40 years, that’s a lot of people that failed.”

HB 1073 has been proposed by Rep. Fitzgerald after receiving complaints from students who she called “bar exam victims.” Fitzgerald said she’s heard from more than a hundred students that have failed the bar exam and believes the state’s bar exam keeps some South Dakota law students from staying in the state.

“A lot of these kids are afraid to come out and speak because they’re embarrassed and they’re ashamed,” Fitzgerald said. “They feel like they failed their parents.”


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