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June 25, 2012

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Alfred Brophy

Ben--interesting proposal. I'm pretty sure that New York used to allow people who'd completed at least 2.5 years (perhaps even 2 years) of law school to take the bar exam. I dimly recall a classmate or two taking the bar the semester before we graduated.

Anon

Very interesting, and this could make skills training more relevant. There's a tangentially-related post on Prawfs: http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2012/06/the-peoples-law-school.html.

Ashley Casas

Great proposal Ben. I agree to what you plotted in that proposal, although we all know that this may take some time to be approved. As the higher board may take consideration of so many things. Anyway, I would just want to give you a +1 on this very well written proposal. Hope in time, this gets approved and benefit many upcoming law graduates!

Guest

I like the theory behind the proposal, but I reject one of its unspoken premises. The proposal assumes that students who cannot find meaningful summer work after 2L year and/or who cannot pass the bar exam on the first try deserve a helping hand. On the contrary, these are the students who should not be in law school in the first place. With the glut of lawyers in the world, no one should be making it easier for future sub-par attorneys to get licensed.

Michael Duff

As an academic support director I'm concerned about the impact that studying for the Bar in the second year (or earlier) could have on the academic performance of some students. I'm not necessarily talking about impact on the third year. My sense is that there would be "prep creep" downward into the first and second years. On the one hand, maybe that's not such a bad thing - in my experience far too many students don't have the pending Bar exam "event" sufficiently affixed in their field of consciousness as they are proceeding through law school. Maybe the potential of sitting for the Bar in the second year would garner appropriate increased attention to the Bar exam. On the other hand, I know full well that the "anxious type" of student is going to obsess on the Bar exam rather than on the delivery of instructional material as decided upon by their professors. Is that a good thing? Personally, I don't like to engage in arguments with Bar-Bri outlines while teaching my courses. I also wonder about the impact on a student of a second year Bar failure. Roughly 95% of all takers will pass the Bar by the 3rd attempt. But a second year failure may prompt a student to leave law school altogether. While that is an outcome "Guest" would seem to prefer, I do not. I don't know yet how I come down on the proposal but I would be very cautious about these kinds of ramifications.

Ben Barros

Michael, thanks for this comment. I worry a little bit about the same thing. I think, though, that the advantages outweigh the downsides for this group of students. I think that earlier and more concentrated bar focus would be a good thing, and I think that having the exam closer in time to the study of the major bar subjects would be an advantage for all students. I'm also skeptical of a second year bar failure leading a student to leave law school. After two years, most students are committed to finishing. And, for the record, I agree with you on Guest's position - I do not want these students to drop out of the process. I also disagree with Guest's assumption that people who have difficulty with the bar are likely to be "sub-par" attorneys. Law school exams and the bar test only a narrow subset of the skills necessary to be a good lawyer.

Anon

Many students don't know which state they will practice in after their second year. And how would summer jobs work with this proposal? Second year summer is an important summer for students who work in law firms.

Ben Barros

Fair questions. How many students are uncertain after their second year depends a lot on context - at some schools, most people know where they will go pretty early on. It doesn't seem to me that uncertainty among some students should hold back students who have a good idea where they plan to practice. Under this proposal, students could also take the bar exam in the February of their third year as their plans come together. The summer job picture would probably change a bit. For some people, work experience in the third year would take on greater importance, though I recognize this would present problems for students who want to practice somewhere other than where they go to law school. There is a bit of a window for summer work after the bar. Some students could also work while they are preparing for the bar. A number of my friends from law school who had clerkships lined up were summer associates at law firms the summer they studied for the bar, and it worked fine for them. Finally, the option of taking the bar in February of the third year would remain for people who wanted to focus on work in the second-year summer.

As an additional comment on Michael's points, I think that the opportunity to offer academic support to students who have failed the bar while they are still in law school is a big advantage.

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