July 1, 2021

Oregon May Drop Bar Exam Requirement

Oregon May Drop Bar Exam Requirement

This post covers how Oregon may drop the bar exam requirement. In an interesting turn of events, the Oregon Supreme Court is accepting member and public comment regarding potential changes to the admission of Oregon lawyers. These potential changes could have a dramatic impact on new attorneys, and by extension the clients they serve and the legal community at large. While it has its critics, the bar exam requirement has been in place so there is some minimal vetting of attorneys before they are certified to practice law in Oregon. The recommended alternatives come from a task force charged with the assignment by the Oregon Supreme Court. Various alternatives were studied, and two of those alternatives have been recommended for immediate adoption.

Alternatives Studied

Some of the alternatives that were studied for potential adoption include supervised practice as it exists in Canada, the emergency models from Utah and Washington D.C., diploma privilege as it exists in Wisconsin, and a curriculum-based experiential learning model in place at the University of New Hampshire. Obviously, every model has advantages and disadvantages. It should be noted that these are alternatives. Oregon may drop the bar exam requirement, but not the bar exam altogether. However, the task force also looked into how these alternatives could be improved upon for Oregon implementation. It should be noted that the task force stated two principles guided their mission: consumer protection and equity.

The urgent search for bar exam alternatives largely came about due to the exemptions made for the pandemic. Aspiring attorneys were scheduled and ready to take the bar exam but prevented from doing so due to pandemic restrictions. In response, Oregon created an exemption for the bar exam for these attorneys. This is particularly interesting because statistically, around one in four applicants will fail their bar exam. Alternative pathways could prevent the need for such pandemic created exemptions, which is part of why Oregon may drop the bar exam requirement.

The two alternatives recommended by the task force are the Oregon Experiential Pathway and the Supervised Practice Pathway models. The experiential pathway is inspired by the curriculum-based experiential learning model in place at the University of New Hampshire. The supervised practice pathway is inspired by the one which currently exists in Canada.

The alternative paths to become a lawyer discussed above are only recommendations at this time.

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