Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pruning the Weeds?

Many deans around the country have expressed concern that the National Conference of Bar Examiners is purposely gaming the MBE to reduce the number of lawyers entering the profession. While the NCBE has stated that declining credentials for entering law students has been the primary reason for a decline in bar passage rates in many jurisdictions, I have spoken to many deans who say that their entering credentials have remained flat, because they have reduced the size of their entering classes. 

I find it interesting how many lawyers told me when I was dean that law schools are producing too many new lawyers. I heard the same sentiment about the booming population of Florida, when I lived there. Politicians and citizens advocated for limiting the numbers of people migrating to the state. Why do we naturally assume that the best solution for overpopulation of a state or a profession is barring (pun intended) the entry of new participants? Many senior members of the bar entered law school before there was an LSAT, and several states even admitted those lawyers through the diploma privilege. Maybe we should thin the profession by requiring a practice competence exam for lawyers every decade or so. Those who do not pass would lose their licenses, or be required to take special training to regain the skill necessary to practice law. 

If there are too many lawyers, why do we assume that the best solution is to make it harder to enter the profession?



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Excellent thoughts. If a test--LSAT, bar, or otherwise--is such an excellent proxy for intelligence and it, in turn, is the best proxy for the ability to be the ideal practicing attorney, then why not require lawyers to pass a competency test each decade to prove their worthiness to future and existing clients? Absurd you say, because clients don't need a standardized test to inform them of their attorneys abilities to properly represent them. Then are not professional admissions officers and faculty similarly capable of selecting quality students without strict reliance on a test? And if an ABA accredited law school confers the J.D. upon a law school graduate, shouldn't that be sufficient evidence of that graduate's ability to practice law?

Posted by: Mark P. Yablon | Sep 20, 2015 9:32:27 AM

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