Bar exam cut score debate intensifies

Long known for having the toughest bar exam in the nation, California was bound to find itself in the center of debate. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the California Supreme Court agreed to lower the passing score in the hope that it will result in more Black and Latino lawyers (“By easing its bar exam score, will California produce more Black and Latino lawyers?” Los Angeles Times, July 26).

The answer is that it will do the latter, but will they be prepared to do their job?  That’s the real question.  Put differently, does the bar exam have predictive value?  Designers of any standardized test must ask themselves if the instrument allows valid inferences to be made based solely upon the score.

I’m not a lawyer, but I want to know if my attorney knows the law well enough to represent me.  I realize that much of an attorney’s work involves negotiation, which cannot be effectively measured on a bar exam.  But if my attorney is deficient in his knowledge, then how strong a case can he or she make?

I support diversity in the legal profession, but not if it means shortchanging clients.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Bar exam cut score debate intensifies”

  1. Many law schools — probably the overwhelming majority — teach the basic rules in the basic legal subjects. However, the law schools usually do not teach the specific rules in these subjects or the differences in these rules from state to state. It follows that X could graduate magna cum laude from most law schools but not know the basic requirements for writing or executing a will, filing a lawsuit for breach of contract, or filing for even an uncontested divorce.

    The bar review courses that most attorneys take prior to the bar exam cover both the basic rules and the specific rules with an emphasis on the specific rules in the state where the bar exam is being given. These courses are a valuable supplement to the law school experience — particularly for the new attorney who is going to immediately start practicing small-firm law (as opposed to an attorney who is going to work in a very large law firm or for a govt agency where the attorney will receive OTJ training from senior attorneys in the specific area of work that he/she is going to be doing).

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  2. Labor Lawyer: That’s true, but lowering the cut score solely to produce more Black and Hispanic lawyers undermines public confidence. It’s the same thing in other professions. Is the person with a license to practice there because of race or because of proficiency?

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