Passing the bar exam is no longer the only way to become a lawyer in Oregon.
Students at the state’s three law school can now bypass the grueling two-day test by logging hundreds of hours at a law firm and then submitting samples of their work for review under a new system approved last week by the Oregon Supreme Court.
Oregon’s Bar Exam is considered one of the harder tests in the US. Last year 31% of takers failed and some years the failure rate has been as high as 42%.
I am not disheartened by this. Becoming a lawyer should be difficult. You’re representing someone else and purporting to be an expert in your specialized legal field. No one is well-served if attorneys are mediocre. While I hate to be impolitic, not all people should be attorneys however much they might desire it.
If the new system of apprenticeships allows for more Oregon attorneys, what does it mean for quality control? It’s not clear to me that what America needs is more attorneys, and we certainly don’t need more bad ones.
Personally, I will insist on an attorney who has passed the Oregon Bar Exam. In fact, that would be my first question in hiring a prospective attorney. Unless it’s made clear how bad candidates are weeded out in the apprenticeship process, just being an Oregon attorney no longer reflects in and of itself a standard of quality.
(This is to say nothing of the Covid years where the candidates for the Bar were not required to take the test.)