Paul L. Caron

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Multistate Bar Exam Is Not A Valid Measure Of Attorney Competence

Steven Foster (Oklahoma City), Does the Multistate Bar Exam Validly Measure Attorney Competence?, 82 Ohio St. L.J. ___ (2021):

2020 brought many challenges, which included administering the bar exam. States jumped through numerous obstacles to continue administering the current form of the exam. However, the current bar exam has never been proven to be a valid measure of attorney competence. This article offers evidence the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), is invalid. The exam, in other words, does not measure the knowledge and skills that lawyers use in practice. On the contrary, it is an artificial barrier to practice—one that harms the public by failing to screen for the knowledge and skills that clients need from their attorneys.

Disruption and stress reigned during 2020, but it may also prove to be a year of renewal. If the chaos of the last year forces us to examine our assumptions, then the challenges may yield progress. The legal profession has an obligation to prevent incompetent practitioners from harming clients, but it has an equally weighty responsibility to assure that its test of minimum competence validly measures the knowledge and skills that new lawyers need to serve those clients. The research reported here suggests that we are falling short of that goal.

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