Assuring Law School Grads are Competent Lawyers

WSJ Letters, March 2, 2015

Ben Bratman is wrong to state that “performance tests came on the bar-exam scene in the 1990s” (“Reforming the Bar Exam to Produce Better Lawyers,” op-ed, Feb. 26). When I took the Massachusetts bar exam 44 years ago, they were the norm. Candidates were presented with a complex fact situation and asked to draft an opinion for a judge or a memorandum for a partner or client, analyzing the facts and applicable law. The answers were written in “blue books,” and the correction, which took months, rewarded not just the “right” answer but the ability to spot and discuss issues raised by the facts.

As the number of aspiring lawyers exploded, states adopted the Multistate Bar Exam, a multiple-choice test to be corrected by computers, supplemented by an essay portion. Prof. Bratman correctly notes that the Multistate Bar Exam is ill-suited to the task of assessing the suitability of future lawyers.

The solution is the expenditure of the time and money to correct proper tests. A modern improvement would be to include laptops to access the law and write the analysis, as a new lawyer would do in actual practice.

Brian R. Merrick, West Barnstable, Mass.



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