Do We Need a Bar Exam... for Experienced Lawyers?
12 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. _ (2022 Forthcoming)
42 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 12, 2021
The fierce determination to require a bar exam during the COVID-19 pandemic left quite an impression on new lawyers entering the profession. State bars and state supreme courts made their position clear: the bar exam provides a screening function necessary to safeguard the public. Many disagreed.
Even a cursory look at attorney discipline reveals that the lawyers who get into disciplinary trouble are not mostly new lawyers. The lawyers who get into trouble tend to be more experienced lawyers, who have not had any formal or objective tests of their ability to function since their original bar exam pass. The only check on their performance is discipline after harm has been done.
Regulators deem the bar exam and character and fitness as necessary tests at the entry gate to the profession. As I contend in this Article, however, evidence supports regular administration of these tests throughout lawyer careers, not just at the beginning. I challenge the profession to consider whether the entirety of the current regime for assuring lawyer competency and quality can be improved to serve the public.
Keywords: bar exam, professional responsibility, consumer law
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