How can we create a more valid, reliable, and fair licensing system? In this section we discuss several approaches that jurisdictions have adopted or are exploring. We group the approaches into three categories. The first category focuses on assessments of candidates' work after law school graduation and while practicing law under supervision. The second rests on assessments of candidates' work in law school clinics, externships, and other experiential courses. The final category includes written exams of all kinds.
Jurisdictions need not adopt a single method of assessing competence to practice law. Some jurisdictions may combine assessment methods, requiring candidates to demonstrate their competence on both a written exam and through postgraduate supervised practice. Jurisdictions may also offer multiple pathways to licensure, allowing candidates to choose whether they want to demonstrate their competence through a one-time exam or through a series of clinical courses. Jurisdictions might also choose to offer pilot programs, allowing a small number of candidates to pursue a new assessment method. After evaluating the success of that pilot, the jurisdiction could choose whether to open the pathway to additional candidates.
A virtual conference hosted by the Mitchell Hamline School of Law offers an excellent overview of alternatives to the current bar exam. For video recordings of the conference panels, as well as handouts provided by the conference speakers, visit this site and use the passcode 2022.
Law graduates can demonstrate their competence while practicing law under supervision.
Aspiring lawyers can collect evidence of their minimum competence while completing clinics, simulations, and other experiential coursework while in law school.
For at least fifty years, jurisdictions have relied upon written exams to assess minimum competence. The format of those exams, however, has varied over time--and some jurisdictions are considering new formats.
Read about jurisdictions that have formed working groups to study the bar exam, as well as some that are trying new approaches.