A NY bar exam option that doesn’t require fighting for seats


In this article, a group of scholars and educators identify a practical and viable alternative licensing path for this year’s New York bar takers. The authors suggest that New York use the MPRE, its existing New York exam, an expanded Bridge the Gap program, and supervised practice to license new lawyers.  They posit that this alternative path to licensure would ensure knowledge of New York law, the Rules of Professional Conduct, key subjects covered in Bridge the Gap courses, and would be a true performance test of minimum competence.  Their plan, and its underlying reasoning, is worth a read and it merits serious consideration for numerous reasons.


First, it sets out a way to avoid constitutional challenges to New York’s recent announcement that there is limited seating for the 2020 bar exam [assuming the exam can be safely administered] and that in-state law school graduates will have registration priority.   Second, it provides a way to ensure that New York has a sufficient number of attorneys to address the increasing pandemic-related legal needs people face now and in the immediate future.   Finally, and most importantly, the suggestions lay out a viable alternative path for New York to ensure newly licensed lawyers possess minimum competence in the range of skills necessary to represent clients.


New York is not the only state facing limited seating issues.  Massachusetts recently announced a plan for seating that mirrors New York and other states have noted that seats at their exam tables are already full.


The limited seating dilemma many states face because of public health issues suggest states need to seriously consider ways beyond the bar exam to license this year’s law graduates.


The creative thinking these scholars demonstrate is the kind of work we need during this pandemic. The model they suggest for New York could be adapted by other states.  States could offer an option like this in addition to, or in lieu of, the traditional bar exam if public health reasons make it unsafe to administer the exam.


It’s a whole new world out there and sticking to the status quo just isn’t going to work – as the current competition for limited bar exam seats illustrates.

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