Spring has sprung, which means the bar examination prep death drive is about to kick off. Look, we’ve already laid out our thoughts on this professional hazing ritual: it makes no sense to test general knowledge in a specialized field, testing doctrinal knowledge after requiring a three-year degree is wastefully redundant, passage is arbitrary both across jurisdictions (you can pass New York and fail Delaware with the same cut score) and within jurisdictions (scaling performed to guarantee a certain failure rate to self-justify regulators), and as a consumer protection mechanism the whole thing is backward because it puts 100 percent oversight upon entry and 0 on the established attorneys who actually commit professional misconduct. Not to mention the role the bar exam plays in justifying a diploma mill mentality where predatory actors scoop up student money and pawn off actual instruction on bar prep companies.
Put all of that aside for now. Let me just speak to bar examiners about the here and now of 2021 bar examination. Y’all need to chill the hell out.
Whether the state is hosting the exam in-person or virtually, examiners need to radically reorient their understanding of the job: you’re there to run a minimum competency test, not power trip off a gatekeeping role.
Not to call out Virginia, whose examiners have not yet ruled on this request, but it’s telling that the rule exists in the first place.
The bar examiners… ban… canes. The things that people with certain medical conditions require to walk. Those canes.
Seriously, what is wrong with an organization that does that?
Could someone be hiding notes in a medical device? Perhaps. So say, “canes may be subject to inspection, we apologize for the inconvenience.” But don’t force people to seek permission to merely exist at the exam. I promise that the odds are very low that someone hollowed out a wheelchair to bring in hardcopies of the most recent Restatements.
It’s all “fairness theater.” There’s no reason to issue a blanket rule against health conditions other than mad-dogging students to prove you’re the ones with all the power. You’re a proctor administering a test of professional school graduates, not a naval officer arriving on the Lord of the Flies island. We’re not far removed from an administration of this test that flagged one-third of examinees as cheating. That should trip the Occam’s Razor switch and compel someone in the room to say, “Hold on, what are we doing here?”
Instead, examiners more or less responded with, “Hm… I guess California has a real big cheating problem.”
Calm the f**k down, people. It’s not serving the profession or the public to conduct yourselves this way.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.