Bill: Creighton, Nebraska Law Grads Could Skip Bar Exam


A bill in the Nebraska Legislature would eliminate the bar exam requirement to practice law for graduates of accredited Nebraska law schools. (Photo by Scott Stewart)
By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

A Lincoln attorney and state senator is asking why graduates of Nebraska have to prove they are competent to practice law by passing the bar examination.

“Those law schools should have the burden of graduating competent and qualified attorneys and raising their standards for our (profession),” State Sen. Adam Morfeld told the Judiciary Committee on Jan. 23.

Morfeld introduced LB 934 to eliminate the bar exam requirement to practice law for graduates of accredited Nebraska law schools. The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

The bill drew opposition from a Nebraska Supreme Court administrative official and the Nebraska State Bar Commission.

Nebraska’s overall bar passage rate is 70%, according to American Bar Association data. In 2018, the Creighton University School of Law had a 79% bar passage rate for first-time Nebraska test-takers. The University of Nebraska College of Law had a 87% passage rate.

Carole McMahon-Boies, administrator for the Attorney Services Division of the Nebraska Supreme Court, said LB 934 would force the state to license attorneys who fall well below minimum standards.

“Requiring the exam and monitoring how law schools are preparing students to become attorneys provides us valuable information in regulating the practice of law,” McMahon-Boies said. “We would regularly be licensing attorneys who perform 45 points below an acceptable level of competency.”

Morfeld said that if students are graduating from law schools unprepared to practice, the state court system and bar association should develop more stringent educational standards for law schools.

Mary Hewitt, chair of the state bar commission, said the bar exam tests a person’s ability to make critical decisions under pressure.

“We believe the bar exam is some evidence that those who have passed are minimally competent,” Hewitt said. “The bar exam is intended to enhance the quality of professionalism in Nebraska and thereby protect the public by identifying those who are not prepared for entry-level practice.”

 

This report contains material from the Nebraska Unicameral Information Office.

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