ST. Paul, Minn. (AP) – The state board that licenses lawyers to practice in Minnesota has launched a comprehensive study that could offer new avenues to the profession in early 2026.
Minnesota is one of 38 states where new lawyers are required to pass the Universal Bar Exam, a formidable test that came up during the scrutiny last year.
When the corona virus outbreak spread, some states allowed law graduates to postpone a two-day, 12-hour test for public health reasons. Meanwhile, the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, and the racial unrest this summer have raised awareness of the role of bar exams in keeping people of color out of the profession.
Criticism of the bar exam is nothing new, but “it was definitely a lot faster than everything that happened last summer,” said Emily Eschweiler, director of the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners.
The board announced in June that it would take two years to study the bar exam, its history in the state and the implications of being a state that accepts lawyers based on their scores. According to the St. Paul’s Pioneer Press, the review time was accompanied by changes in the exam itself.
But the Minnesota board will look beyond the exam to consider “alternative options for determining eligibility for a license,” such as an apprenticeship-style model or a “diploma privilege,” which means any state in Wisconsin He completes law school so he can practice without law. Taking a test
“There has been a lot of debate over the last year about whether the exam should be just a way to determine practice and competency,” said Schweiler.
In 2023, the board will make recommendations to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide how lawyers are certified to practice here.
Associated Justice Barry Anderson, the Supreme Court’s contact with the Board of Examiners, said Thursday that the court is certainly open to discussion on the ways in which we license lawyers.
“I’m not prepared to say there’s a problem with the bar exam,” he said, “but I’m not ready to say we’re not ready for an alternative that addresses people’s concerns.” Suggest for . ”
Separately, the Minnesota State Bar Association is preparing a request for the Supreme Court to form its own task force to study avenues for its profession.
“It’s a problem – the bar exam, its usefulness, how well it prepares to enter the profession – it has been the subject of debate across the country. And I think it’s all caused by an epidemic. Jennifer Thompson, president of the association, said. “This is the right time to look at how we license lawyers and measure readiness to enter the profession.”
The board of examiners said in a statement that the study would also consider “the diversity of the licensing process and its implications for equity”.
Only 9% of Minnesota’s active lawyers are people of color – compared to 21% of the general population. Bar exams have played a role in this difference.
Although Minnesota does not track pass rates by race or ethnicity, the American Bar Association said that in 2020, 88 percent of white candidates passed the exam on their first attempt, compared to 80 percent of Asians, 78 percent. Native Americans, 76 percent Hispanic and 66 percent black.
Anthony Nedwicki said at the inauguration of Mitchell Hemlin School of Law as dean last week that the bar exam was “designed by white people to exclude others from the profession.”
“The bar test is racist,” NedWiki announced. “It was created to keep some people out of the profession, and we need to get rid of it. It doesn’t test the skills needed to be a successful lawyer, and there are other ways to license lawyers that are more. Reliable and fair.
Justice Anderson does not believe the racial difference in pass rate is a good reason to reconsider Minnesota’s reliance on the bar exam.
“Certainly, we want a diverse bar that represents the people of Minnesota. That’s definitely a goal of the court.” I’m not sure it’s necessarily linked to the bar exam. ”
Eschweiler said that in addition to the Wisconsin model, her study data aims to find alternative avenues, such as New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors program, where law students have a portfolio of work in real and simulated settings instead of bar exams. Make
Another idea, which Utah implemented last year during the epidemic, brings new lawyers into the bar after spending time working under the supervision of an experienced lawyer.
The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System last year called for a new approach to determining who is eligible to follow the law. It states that the skills and use required of new lawyers cannot be identified through closed-door examinations, time limits and multiple choice questions.
Dina Sonbole, dean of academic excellence at Mitchell Hemline, agrees that there are problems with the bar exam.
“It tests a lot of memorization, while in real life you don’t have to memorize as a lawyer,” he said.
However, adopting the Wisconsin model would be “complex,” he said, adding that all three state law schools need to adopt a common set of admissions standards and curricula. She believes more changes are coming to the state.
“My biggest concern as a lawyer is to make sure that the people who are becoming lawyers are competent, skilled and ethical,” he said. “If there is a way to get it without a bar exam, I would definitely support it.”