Legislative Invocations
There is One Cry Baby, ...

What's the Bar Exam Fuss?

Call me an old-fogey, a traditionalist, a self-serving creep. Call me anything you like, but count me in favor of the bar examination and of high standards for admission to the bar.

New York lawyers are up in arms about a proposal to require a higher score to pass the bar exam. A committee has been formed by the New York State Bar Association to assess the relevance of the exam.

The relevance of the bar exam?

I explain it to my clients this way: I may not be the smartest person you ever met, but I have been deemed minimally competent to listen to a stranger's tale of woe, spot the issue and then know where to look for answers. I know this because I passed the bar exam.

I had to spend time learning about things I rarely ever use: trusts and estates, wills, contracts. I covered a broad spectrum of chaos and learned the leading doctrines and theories that define the disputes most common to a lawyer's practice.

The New York State Bar Association wants to know why things such as oral information processing and courtroom prowess aren't tested for as well. Does the association really think choreography and acting should be tested? Do we want "My Cousin Vinnie" made part of a bar review course? Most lawyers never see the inside of courtroom, anyhow.

We are licensed to perform a service. That service is to help strangers cope with life's rough edges. Eliminating an exam that assures minimal competence in recognizing legal doctrine in messy facts is far from a luxury. And requiring a better educated bar ought to be embraced, and not fought.

Shame on the New York State Bar Association.