New Requirements for Bar Exam Stress Clinical Education

In a press release issued on January 12th, 2012, the New York State Board of Law Examiners announced

[T]he amendment of the Court’s educational requirements for U.S.-educated graduates of ABA-accredited law schools to sit for the New York State bar examination. After consulting with law school administrators and representatives of the State bar and reviewing the current American Bar Association Standards for Approval of Law Schools (ABA Standards), the State Board of Law Examiners proposed changes to the rules which have been approved by the Court of Appeals.

The rule changes can be viewed here.

Among the changes for the 2012-2013 school year are:

  • Increase in maximum clinical hours, field placement and externships from 20 to 30
  • Increase in number of hours required to graduate from 80 to 83
  • Requiring professional responsibility

The New York Law Journal published a story on the new rules today featuring a quote from Connie Mayer, the Interim President and Dean at Albany Law School. In the article she supported the changes, but she would have gone further stating: “‘My view is there should be some requirement that a law student should meet with an actual client,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how you graduate from law school and never actually see a potential client.'”

The changes were made partially in response to the report from the New York State Bar Association Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession. The Task Force has been discussed before on Best Practices. The view of the Task Force has been that students need to have practice at dealing with clients and learning practical skills so that they know how to handle complex client problems and have exposure to the ethical dilemmas that arise every day in law.

While this movement is in the right direction, the fact is New York’s rules were more restrictive than almost all other states on how it “counted” clinical courses. The real issue for New York as identified by the NYSBA Taskforce is the nature and content of its Bar Exam. The current structure of the NYS Bar Examination not only affects the cost and content of legal education at NY law schools but also has a discriminatory effect on the success of diverse law graduates. The NYSBA Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar is currently reviewing proposals to offer alternatives or modifications to the current exam. Stay tuned to see what happens. That would be change to crow about!

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