Archive for June 18th, 2008

Sarah Waldeck, contributor to a great general interest law blog called Concurring Opinions, has posted a commentary discussing the recent decision to certify a class of out-of-state law graduates challenging Wisconsin’s “diploma privilege,” which allows in-state graduates to be admitted to practice without taking the bar examination.  Ms. Waldeck’s article raises questions about the social utility of a state requiring recent graduates to take the bar examination at all, sparking some thoughtful comments in response.

I don’t have a strong opinion about the benefits of requiring admittees to take the bar examination generally.  I supposed that if I’m really honest about it, my view is similar to my view on freshman initiation when I was a high school senior: I had to go through it, so you should too.  A requirement that every new admittee have passed at least one bar exam provides a minimal test of the analytical abilities and, perhaps more importantly, the level of commitment to preparation and study necessary to provide competent representation to the lawyer’s clients.  But surviving three years of law school demonstrates these skills to some extent too.

A more important question to me is whether there is any practical benefit to a state requiring applicants to take its own bar examination, when most of what gets tested is similar from state to state anyway and when the vagaries of a state’s unique laws and procedures are not likely to sink in without the repetition of practice anyway even when one has attended law school in that state.  Having taken and passed the ethics portion of the Washington state bar exam earlier this year, part of me is leaning toward the “I had to do it, you should too” attitude on that issue too.  But then again, like many commercial litigators with clients who do business nationwide, it is not feasible to restrict my practice to a single state, nor is it feasible to meet the general admission requirements of every state where one of my clients might get sued some day. 

See my earlier entry discussing Wisconsin class certification decision followed by loosely-related musings on mulitijurisdictional practice of law here.

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