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Lowering the Bar

George Leef points us to a debate about the future of law schools.  He argues "that the bar exam should be open to anyone, not just those who have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school. That would lead to far more competition by opening up non-law-school modes of legal education."

If the purpose of the bar exam is to make sure that would-be lawyers know enough to practice, why is law school necessary?

His point about allowing for diversity among law schools is also well taken. Why must they all follow the three year model?

Opening the bar exam might have interesting reprecussions.  Would a smart student at Harvard Law school who feels the financial burden of tuition (and perhaps is simply bored with school), quit after a year or two and then take the bar.  He could say he "attended" Harvard Law school, albeit without graduating.  That might be something of a return to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when many students at elite schools regarded them partly as finishing schools, rather than as places for specialized learning.  In that model, taking a degree was not always necessary.

The consequences of such a change on the fortunes of our friends the law professoriat would be intereseting, to say the least.

Categories > Education

Discussions - 4 Comments

Texas used to have that model, maybe they still do.

In New York, it was modal at one time to study law in apprenticeships. You 'read law' in an office. I think it was fairly common into the 1920s.

It was only around about 1920 that the majority of superior court judges where I grew up had attended law school. As late as 1944, the chief appellate judge in our part of the state was a man who had attended neither college or law school, but had read law in the city corporation counsel's office and taken the bar exam. By around 1968, this option was no longer available and you were required to have attended law school for some period of time 'ere taking the bar exam, though an LLB or JD degree was still not required.

Every state is different, but I think in NY you can still "read law" I think they allow 1 year and 3 years of experience. Maine allows for 2 years and 1 year experience. California doesn't even require law school if you can get 4 years of experience. (in california it is either 3 year JD or any combo total of 4 years.)

You can also practice tax law without a JD and patent law, but you need a hard science. There are so many layers of requirements that the best cover is the JD, and the 4 year degree...but theoretically to this day in California you only need 2 years of undergrad work to get into a law school... so the harvard drop out could do this, and then read the law with a judge or attorney, for 3 years.

The req. for reading the law in california is a BA or 1 year of law school... so I think the min. formal education for the Bar is 3 years.

If you want to forum shop there are some strange combo's, but some of the min. requirements are only theoretical because getting admitted is difficult.

Theoretically... You could GED as a freshman in highschool get a 36 ACT, go to Harvard for 2 years...get admited to Stanford on a reading law program, do one year at Stanford, then pick up 3 years of reading the law experience.

So you can eliminate 4 years of high school, eliminate 2 years of BA/BS and 2 years of JD.

That is my guess on the theoretical min for formal education.

So I think it is logically possible to be a middle school graduate and be admitted to the Bar in California.

Of course the Bar in California is neither easy, nor low (Gov. Jerry Brown passed on his second attempt.)

the GED's age min, which is set at 16.

The Harvard Law student with say an MIT undergrad (or any hard science 4 year degree) could already drop out and pass the patent bar, no JD required.

In fact a lot of Harvard Law students do this... they pass the patent bar as 1L's get scooped up for high paying IP law work, fly between boston and LA working at firms that meets the reading requirement for California Bar, and take this bar 3 years latter never having finished law school.

The very last thing this country needs is more lawyers. I think making it more competitive is a good thing, but eliminating a large number of law schools would be even better. I wonder if anyone has ever done an international study of the relationship between number of lawyers per capita and such things as economic growth.

Oh, and of course tort reform would be nice as well.

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