Friday, November 5, 2021

A Dean Speaks Out

I've been meeting with unsuccessful bar takers, and I'm finding that it is increasingly difficult to explain holistic relative-rank scoring, in which what appears to meet competency standards is judged incompetent.  

I realize that the NCBE and jurisdictions say "trust us" because we use statistical equating and scoring methods to standardize written scores based on MBE distribution data including median and mean MBE scores and standard deviations.  

But, frankly, it seems unfair to toss some written exam answers, especially legal writing performance test answers, into the 1 or 2 out of 6 "buckets" when the pool of applicants have already undoubtedly proven their merit through earning doctoral juris degrees.  

So, fancy this, a dean speaks out, suggesting that the bar exam as a rite of passage is not moored to its stated goal of measuring entering level attorney competency but rather tied to 1920-era exclusionary politics.  

I'll let the dean speak for himself:

"When we started seeing diversity increase or people from underrepresented communities — mostly people of color and recent immigrants, trying to become lawyers — then all of a sudden the ABA (The American Bar Association) and other bar organizations were doing whatever they can to keep them from being lawyers," Niedwiecki explained. "The written bar exam became a requirement of the ABA at that time. So that's when we started seeing all these written bar exams. Before that there were oral exams... apprenticeships, there were other ways to become licensed. I think we have to go back to those days knowing that the bar exam really kind of was back in the '20s rooted in exclusion." Niedwiecki, A, "Why a Mitchell Hamlin's Dean is Calling for an End to the Bar Exam," KARE-11 TV (Sep. 30, 2021).  (S. Johns).

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