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Concordia accreditation issue raises question about value of bar exam

Concordia accreditation issue raises question about value of bar exam

Geoffrey Talmon
August 7, 2014
August 7, 2014

Third-year law students attending Concordia University School of Law in Boise might not be able to take the Idaho State Bar Exam because the school is not yet accredited with the American Bar Association. Because all law students must pass the bar exam before they are allowed to practice as attorneys, this could have a significantly detrimental effect on the job prospects of Concordia’s students.

So why is it that accreditation and the bar exam are both mandatory? Accreditation, which can only be applied for after a school is already operating, is required by Idaho law in order for a school’s students to be eligible to take the bar exam. Passage of the Idaho Bar Exam (or passage of the bar in another state plus years of practice there) is likewise required by law in order to practice law. The bar exam is supposed to determine whether an attorney is “minimally qualified” to practice law in Idaho.

But if someone is capable of passing the bar exam without attending an ABA accredited law school, then why should he not be able to take that exam? Likewise, if the bar exam is truly capable of weeding out those who should not be practicing law, then why is accreditation necessary? And if you can pass the bar exam without being qualified to practice, then what is the point of the bar exam in the first place?

It is also worth noting that the passage rate for first-time takers of the Idaho Bar Exam is approximately 85 percent and the passage rate for repeat takers is generally greater than 50 percent. If better than four out of every five people pass the bar exam the first time around, and most of those who did not pass the first time around pass the second time around, then the bar exam is really only weeding out maybe seven people out of every hundred takers.

When you add to that the likelihood that some people could have turned out to be quality attorneys but were bad test-takers (and vice versa), it does raise some serious questions about the value of the bar exam itself.

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