Before creating a licensing system, a jurisdiction must define minimum compenece. What knowledge and skills do new lawyers need to serve clients competently? Until we define those competencies, we cannot test for their presence.
Three recent studies offer the best guides to minimum competence:
These studies agree that skills are more important than doctrinal knowledge when defining minimum competence. The current exam, they agree, fails to test some essential skills and assesses too much doctrinal knowledge. For more, see the links below. We draw upon numerous sources in these pages, but rely particularly on the Building a Better Bar study, which was coauthored by one of this website's authors.
Detailed doctrinal knowledge is not necessary for minimum competence, but other types of knowledge are necessary.
New lawyers need at least 10 skills to perform with minimum competence.
The current bar exam tests both speed and memorization. Neither of these abilities are necessary for entry-level law practice.