An Exploration of Alternatives to the Bar Exam
Symposium Summary (prepared in 2003):
Bar exam alternatives are a hot topic today. A number of critiques of the existing bar examination have been published in law reviews. The Society of American Law Teachers has issued a comprehensive report, and the American Bar Association has formed a joint committee with the Association of American Law Schools to re-evaluate the bar exam. A joint report prepared by the committees on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar of the New York State Bar Association and of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York has recommended a public service alternative to the bar examination which would be a pilot project of up to two years to assess the effects of substituting un-paid public service work for the bar exam. Law school graduates meeting certain law school requirements would have the option of performing supervised work in the court system for three months in lieu of taking the test. The graduates would draft court opinions, conference cases, assist unrepresented litigants, and serve as mediators. They would be evaluated by both their immediate supervisors and outside evaluators on a broad range of lawyering competencies. Assessment would be based on their on-the-job performance as well as simulation exercises and some written exams. The graduates would also be required to pass the multi-state professional responsibility examination. They would be required to provide 150 hours of pro bono work in the first three years following admission.
In Arizona a new organization based at the University of Arizona Law School is developing a proposal for a one-year apprenticeship program (at modest salary) for law school graduates to provide reduced-fee services to lower-middle-income citizens. The graduates would work with experienced lawyer-mentors recruited to practice exclusively within the program. The program model anticipates six general practice areas ranging from domestic- and business-related issues to community infrastructure support, including both litigation and transactional work. Clients would be served primarily by apprentices rotating in six-week shifts through these major practice areas under the supervision and management of experienced lawyer-mentors, similar to medical residency programs. These mentors would conduct performance evaluations during and immediately after each rotation, assessing legal analysis, legal research, problem-solving, oral and written communication, fact investigation, negotiation, client counseling, alternative dispute resolution, time management, and the recognition and resolution of ethical issues. At the end of the year-long apprenticeship, if all evaluations are successfully completed, the apprentice would be admitted to Arizona Bar Practice. Arizona's current character and fitness standards would remain in full force, as would the mandatory multi-state ethics examination.
Although much has been written about the inadequacies of the current bar exam, almost nothing has been published that looks in detail at the practical questions raised by proposals for alternative methods for licensing lawyers. The GSU Law Review will contribute to filling this gap at a critical moment with a one day Symposium focusing on different models for training and assessing the post-graduate aspiring attorney. We are particularly interested in drawing on the expertise of American medical education and legal education in other countries.
Linked to the symposium will be an issue of the GSU Law Review containing 4-6 lead articles from noteworthy scholars, including writers from medicine and from different countries. The Law Review also plans to include shorter contributions from the perspectives of bar associations, bar examiners, and state supreme courts. This special issue will target the larger legal community as well as academics. Complimentary copies will be sent to all state Supreme Courts and Boards of Bar Examiners and to all members of the ABA/AALS bar exam committee. The Symposium issue of the Law Review will serve as a resource for any state considering an alternative to the bar examination.
|Volume 20||Number 4||Summer 2004|