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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bar None

Bar NoneWith the increasing number of law school graduates entering “alternative legal careers,” the question continues to surface as to whether taking a bar exam is necessary for a successful career in the law.  There have been studies about those who took a swing at the bar and failed, but little has been written about those who have never stepped up to the plate.  There are a few articles here and there with advice for those who may wish to opt out, but not many.  Yet another consideration is the large number of former lawyers who took the bar and later decided not to practice.  This figure includes many, if not most, law professors.  Is taking the bar for everyone, and would law schools maintain the same focus on its importance were bar passage excluded from counting toward accreditation or rankings?

Posted by Kelly Anders on December 30, 2014 at 10:54 AM in Deliberation and voices, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink


"...the question continues to surface as to whether taking a bar exam is necessary for a successful career in the law. ..."

I will say that it continues to surface, but only by people who don't seem to realize that bar passage is necessary for practicing law.

Posted by: Barry | Dec 31, 2014 2:29:34 PM

In my view, any professor who wants such a proposal to be taken seriously should also state the recent bar passage rates for the school they're teaching at. Otherwise it looks like a desperate, self-interested attempt to save one's own livelihood at the expense of students' financial futures.

Posted by: Full disclosure | Dec 31, 2014 12:05:26 PM

Law schools should help all graduates prepare for and find suitable careers, including those who decide not to sit for the bar. That's where this should end.

There is already much stress on the flexibility of the JD in recruiting potential applicants, in no small part because jobs in the traditional market are harder to find. Going further -- releasing schools from accountability for bar results -- strikes as going MUCH too far in this direction, *particularly* premised on the unrepresentative data that it wasn't essential for their professors (who, BTW, often needed bar passage to work before teaching, or at least as a hedge). Anyway, it's likely that the schools that prepare/credential best for non-lawyering careers are already at the top of the rankings heap, and none face accreditation problems, so this would just insulate those who are simply failing at one of the tasks on which they should be measured . . . including in admitting only those students with realistic chances at passing the bar or achieving like yields on their degrees.

Posted by: Ani | Dec 30, 2014 4:21:58 PM

I hate to sound like even more of a curmudgeon, but law school is professional school. Admission to the bar is the sine qua non that separates being a "lawyer" from having a law degree.

There are people who never passed the bar who have had successful careers (Pat Robertson, etc.), but they never had "a successful career in law."

The only non-bar person that comes to mind who had "a successful career in law" is Akhil Reed Amar of Yale, who I unbderstand has never taken the bar exam.

Conversely (because we're doing legal critical thinking here) there have been legions of successful lawyers who have never graduated from law school (eg Robert Jackson, Abe Lincoln, Clarence Darrow, etc.). Great legal minds and leaders. Maybe we should ask that question. Is law school for every lawyer, and would lawyers maintain the same focus on law school's importance were law school excluded from being a requirement for admission to the bar?

Posted by: Jojo | Dec 30, 2014 4:16:44 PM

If bar passage were excluded from accreditation/rankings, wouldn't that make it even harder to get schools to focus on "core" subjects and on measurable improvements in legal ed? Interesting thinking though.

Posted by: LitchfieldLawStudent | Dec 30, 2014 1:17:57 PM

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