Thursday, February 16, 2012

Letting 3Ls Take the Bar Exam in February?

Arizona's three law schools [University of Arizona, Arizona State, and  Phoenix] are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to change its admissions rules to allow law students to take the bar exam in February of their third year.

According to their petition, under their proposal, students wishing to take the February bar during their third year would have to obtain a certification from the law school from which they expect to graduate that the student is currently enrolled in a course of study which, if satisfactorily completed, will result in graduation within 120 days following administration of the bar examination, and that the student otherwise satisfies the law school's certification requirements.

Here’s the story. I would wonder how many 3Ls would find the time to study for the bar during the school year and be ready in time for a February exam.


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The reduction in cost of legal education is a function of the student dismissing the need to take out a bar study loan while studying for the exam. The benefit is especially clear if the student can somehow wrangle a job offer prior to graduation. Otherwise, the student can still reduce costs by living poorly and hanging a shingle immediately after graduation.

Either way, the idea isn't really too novel, and somewhat hearkens back to the days of formal apprenticeship. If anything, state bar administrators should look to how the medical industry handles licensing, and at least give students more than two opportunities to sit for the bar each year. Maybe that can be the positive outcome from this.

Do those last few months of procrastination and "3L-itis" really make much of a difference in the development of attorneys? Odds are that if you ask the average attorney, they'll probably give you a resounding "No". In fact, the industry has been pretty outspoken about law schools' failure to properly train graduating lawyers--so instead of watching TV, playing in intramural sports, and going out 3-4 nights per week, these schools are trying to give their student the opportunity to get a head start on their career.

Posted by: Ben M | Feb 17, 2012 9:06:37 AM

They used to allow that in Georgia. It knocks a big hole in the spring semester, because third-year students are foresaking their classwork to cram for the bar exam. Nothing worthwhile can get done until late Fegruary when the bar exam is over.

Posted by: otto | Feb 17, 2012 8:19:19 AM

Has anyone done an empirical study of the impact of taking the MPRE during the third year? Students miss class to take the exam. Students cut back on law school course preparation and assimilation in order to study for the MPRE. What's next? Taking the bar exam during the first year?

Of course there is one advantage. If, and that's a big if, a student passes, then by April or May the student can enter the job market as an admitted attorney. But there are all sorts of disadvantages.

I took a look at the petition. Indeed, the advantage I identified is listed. So, too, is a claim that this change will reduce the student's cost of legal education? HOW? There is nothing suggested about a tuition discount.

Looks to me as though these schools are trying to manufacture some sort of public relations edge through a gimmick that will turn out to be nothing but a trap for the unwary. Yes, students, study for the bar during your third year, watch your grades drop, and find your marketability reduced because your grades are lower.

Bad idea.

Posted by: James Edward Maule | Feb 17, 2012 6:10:34 AM

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