Legal Knowledge: What's Relevant, What's Not? Why the Pennsylvania Bar Exam Should Focus on Federal Law, "Fundamental Legal Principles" and Legal Analysis-And Why it Should Stop Testing on Pennsylvania Law
The Pennsylvania Lawyer, March/April 2005
4 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2009
In 2006 the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners added employment discrimination as a tested subject on the essay portion of the state's bar exam, thereby making Pennsylvania the only state to test on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the employment title of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It matters some which substantive subjects are tested on a bar exam, and to that extent, Pennsylvania's decision to add employment discrimination-a subject of considerable prominence in law practice and in the lives of ordinary people-is smart and forward-thinking. Equally wise was Pennsylvania's choice not to test on its own state law variations from the federal employment discrimination laws, which, albeit very important in day-to-day law practice within the Commonwealth, are too arcane to be the stuff of which bar exams should be made. However, Pennsylvania, like so many other states, continues to test on arcane state law variations within so many other subjects, including all those tested on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Bar exams ought to be a means for evaluating fundamental lawyering skills and not the ability to engage in rote memorization of two layers of law within a myriad of subjects. Accordingly, the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners ought to follow its own example with employment discrimination and stop testing Pennsylvania law variations from fundamental legal principles or federal law within all subjects.
Keywords: bar exam, bar, exam, Pennsylvania Bar Exam, employment discrimination, bar exam subjects
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