Bar Exam Bypass | God's World News

Bar Exam Bypass

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    Over 3,000 students take the bar exam in Tampa, Florida. In most states, the bar exam is a 12-hour test taken over two days. (AP/St. Petersburg Times, Zach Boyden-Holmes)
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    A wooden bar stands in front of the magistrate’s bench in a reproduction of an outdoor courtroom in Belgium. The original courtroom likely dates to the 16th or 17th century. (Brigade Piron/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)
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    Columbia County Circuit Court judge Steven Reed, left, listens as a witness reads a statement in St. Helens, Oregon. (AP/Don Ryan)
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    Franklin Pierce Law Center students are sworn in as lawyers at the State Supreme Court in Concord, New Hampshire. Under a special rule, the students bypassed the bar exam because they completed a rigorous, two-year honors program. (AP/Jim Cole)
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    A Columbia University law school graduate poses for photographs in New York. For most law school graduates, the next step is taking the bar. (AP/Frank Franklin II)
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Starting in May, Oregon’s law school graduates won’t need to take the grueling bar exam. A bar exam bypass may sound unlawful. But the idea may catch on.

There’s an old hymn that uses the term bar: “Dear Savior! When before Thy bar, all tribes and tongues assembled are . . .” The song describes the final judgment. There Jesus’ blood will plead for the Christian, and God won’t see guilt: He’ll see only His Son’s righteousness.

The legal term bar comes from the railing separating the area of the judge, lawyers, witnesses, and jury from the spectators’ area. Historically, judges would literally summon lawyers to the bar to speak for their clients.

The bar exam is a test given by a state law association. Would-be lawyers must pass the bar exam (often simply called “the bar”) in order to be admitted to that state’s bar association.

Critics have disparaged the traditional bar exam model since the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and other measures disrupted testing. Plus, critics claim the bar doesn’t effectively test the skills lawyers need.

Oregon was among five states that adopted some form of bar exemption or substitute during the pandemic. However, all five returned to requiring the exam.

In November, the Oregon Supreme Court approved an alternate program. The Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination will be open to graduates of both in-state and out-of-state law schools. That feature is different from two other no-bar exam programs in the United States.

Wisconsin currently licenses in-state graduates without passing the bar. New Hampshire allows a small group of law students who complete a certain curriculum to avoid the bar. California is considering similar options.

Law students in Oregon may still take the bar exam if they prefer. But as part of the new program, law school grads will spend 675 hours working with an experienced attorney. They’ll submit examples of legal writing and lead client interviews or counseling sessions. They will also be required to head up some legal negotiations, among other requirements.

Candidates will each create a portfolio of legal work experience. Oregon bar examiners will grade the portfolios. Those with qualifying scores will be sworn into the state bar.

Law professor Brian Gallini tells Portland station KGW8 that people should consider whether they would rather have a lawyer who can pass a test, or one who has already done hundreds of hours of the actual work that they expect them to do.

Bar exam reformers hope other states will follow Oregon’s legal lead—and re-examine the exam.

You are not under law but under grace. — Romans 6:14

Why? Rethinking processes can result in positive changes—or help confirm tried-and-true methods. Oregon is putting emphasis on action and experience over book knowledge alone.

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