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California Should Adopt Uniform Bar Exam, Says Law School Dean

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

By Jacob Gershman, posted on WSJ Law Blog 

New York’s top judge recently announced that New York would become the 16th and largest state to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination, a nationally standardized test for would-be lawyers.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of University of California-Irvine School of Law, thinks it’s time for California to make the switch too. The constitutional scholar spells out his reasons in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

Writes Mr. Chemerinsky:

Forcing students to memorize detailed, state-specific rules, most of which they will never need to know and which they will promptly forget, does not ensure competence…

Restrictive policies may please some lawyers who are already established and have no intention of ever leaving their home state, but they’re bad for clients who end up having fewer choices, as well as for lawyers who value geographic mobility. And because the legal market isn’t exactly robust at the moment, it seems rather cruel to make lawyers restrict their job searches to the states in which they’ve passed the bar exam.

Legal education also would benefit if all states adopted the uniform test. For 35 years as a law professor, I have been telling my students that they shouldn’t take courses in law school about specialized topics that do not interest them just because they are tested on the bar…. But, out of fear, many students burden their schedules with dull classes…The Uniform Bar Exam, which focuses on basic subjects that virtually all students take, would free students of this pressure.

In 2014, the California bar exam was administered to just over 13,000 people, 47% of whom passed, one of the lowest passage rates in the country.

Source: WSJ Law Blog

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