Oregon Supreme Court Considers Groundbreaking Attorney Licensing Pathway Without Bar Exam Requirement
The Oregon Supreme Court is considering a proposal to establish an alternative pathway to attorney licensing in the state. If approved, Oregon would become the first U.S. state to adopt such a large-scale licensing program that does not require passing the bar exam or graduating from an in-state law school.
Under the proposed program, known as the Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination, law school graduates would need to work for a minimum of 675 hours under the supervision of an experienced attorney. This alternative pathway was developed by the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners in response to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the temporary adoption of diploma privilege in several states. However, those states have since reverted to requiring the bar exam.
In addition to the supervised work requirement, applicants would need to submit at least eight examples of legal writing, take the lead in two client interviews or counseling sessions, and handle two negotiations, among other requirements. The portfolios of applicants would be assessed by Oregon bar examiners, and those achieving qualifying scores would be admitted to the state bar. Participants in the program would receive compensation for their work.
The proposal was unanimously approved by the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners on August 24 and has now been submitted to the Oregon Supreme Court for a final decision. If implemented, this alternative licensing pathway could serve as a model for other states considering similar reforms. Currently, only Wisconsin allows law school graduates from in-state institutions to be licensed without passing the bar exam, while New Hampshire permits a small group of law students who complete a specialized curriculum to bypass the bar. Oregon’s proposed program would be more comprehensive, offering an alternative to law students both within and outside the state.
Additionally, Oregon bar examiners are planning to develop a second alternative licensing pathway that would involve law students at the state’s three law schools completing practice-based coursework during their final two years of study.
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