Calling All Law Grads Who Want to Skip the Bar Exam

Sitting for a bar exam is a pain.  Almost everyone who has ever done it agrees, and those who do not agree are either certifiable legal geniuses or want you to believe that they aced the exam because they are SO amazing.  But for the rest of us, it is definitely a pain.

But, now you have choices.  In addition to those presented by Wisconsin, which has a state law school graduation exception, other states are adopting alternative requirements for licensure.  Washington and Oregon are the most recent states to eliminate the requirement for bar exam passage in recognition of alternatives like apprentiseships and internships, which arguably present greater opportunities for learning how to practice law.

Washington State is the most recent jurisdiction to present these alternatives to bar passage, doing so last month in March 2024.    Read about it here.  The task force in Washington, which examined the issue, found that the bar exam is “at best minimally effective for ensuring competent lawyers,” and I quite agree.  At most, bar exams reward the powers of memorization, and that is a far cry from preparing competent lawyers.  Passing a bar exam does not put a law school graduate anywhere even close to knowing how to file a motion, represent a client in court, write a contract, negotiate a settlement or myriad other fundamentals that demonstrate competence to practice.

As I have stated before on this blog, I am very familiar with the Wisconsin Diploma Privilege program whereby graduates of the University of Wisconsin Law School or Marquette University Law School are allowed to become licensed without writing a bar exam.  And I know quite a few Wisconsin lawyers.  There is absolutely no argument that the competence of members of the Wisconsin Bar is diminished as a result of Diploma Privilege, and that is apparently why the statute allowing Diploma Privilege has been in existence for almost 100 years.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So, as someone who has taken two bar exams and is licensed in both jurisdictions and who falls on the side of REALLY disliking bar exams, I could not be happier to see the alternatives becoming more popular.


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