An Alternative Model to United States Bar Examinations: The South African Community Service Experience in Licensing Attorneys

Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 20, No.4, Summer 2004

Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-16

28 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009  

Peggy Maisel

Florida International University College of Law

Date Written: October 14, 2009

Abstract

This Article examines the system of educating and licensing attorneys in South Africa to determine whether that country’s experience can provide guidance to jurisdictions in the United States that are considering proposals to reduce or eliminate the importance of bar examinations. The analysis set out here is supplemented by a companion article, providing a first-hand account of the South African system by Ms. Thuli Mhlungu, who was educated and sought admission to the bar during the last years of apartheid and the early years of the new democratic regime.

Examining the situation in South Africa makes particular sense because South Africa is a country whose tortured history parallels the United States’ history in many ways. Further, the South African system (1) has always required some form of practical training prior to admission as an attorney; (2) expanded the way to fulfill the practical training requirement ten years ago to include two alternatives being considered in the United States - community service apprenticeships and practical training courses; and (3) suffers from societal problems similar to those of the United States, including under-representation of people of color within the legal profession and inadequate resources to provide access to justice for indigent persons.

Any analysis of how helpful a consideration of the South African history of bar licensure can be for jurisdictions in the United States initially requires an understanding of the structure of that country’s bar, its system of legal education, the historical method it used for licensing law graduates, and the racial composition of its bar. Part I of this Article sets out this historical framework. After providing that historical information, Part II discusses the post-apartheid changes to bar admissions, the rationale for those changes, and how successful they have been. Part III examines key issues jurisdictions in the United States will face if they try to institute a parallel system. Finally, Part IV offers a suggestion for how U.S. jurisdictions might try to duplicate the successes achieved in South Africa.

Keywords: legal education, attorney licensing, licensure, bar admissions, South Africa, United States, community service, practical training, clinical legal education

Suggested Citation

Maisel, Peggy, An Alternative Model to United States Bar Examinations: The South African Community Service Experience in Licensing Attorneys (October 14, 2009). Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 20, No.4, Summer 2004; Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1488900

Peggy Maisel (Contact Author)

Florida International University College of Law ( email )

11200 SW 8th St.
RDB Hall 1097
Miami, FL 33199
United States

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