A few posts ago, I wrote about the influx of people who have been flooding law schools despite the lackluster result for many who try to find jobs during this economic slump. A friend of mine sent me an article the other day from The Economist that looks at the issue from an entirely different angle.
According to a book published last month by Clifford Winston and Robert Crandall of D.C.’s very own Brookings Institution and Vikram Maheshri of the University of Houston, entry into the legal profession has remained barricaded by its own established professionals for decades.
Accredited law schools and bar exams act as giant hurdles to receiving a license to practice. The authors remind us that Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow, both celebrated for their legal prowess, never graduated from law school.
In fact, California is one of the only states that allows you to take the bar exam without graduating from law school, and the pass rates of non-graduates and graduates are 15 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Not sure how many people would argue that the six figures of debt was worth the 15-percentage-point difference.
Not only do the educational requirements make it academically and financially difficult for individuals to enter the profession, but attorneys who are already practicing make it difficult for anyone without a law license to take an authoritative role in management of our business world.
So what are your thoughts? Do accredited law schools and bar exams offer a level of quality control that excessively restricts entrance into the legal industry? As the article notes, many clever people are bad at taking tests, such as famed legal scholar Benjamin Cardozo or our Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, both of whom failed a bar exam at some point in their careers.
Do the exorbitant law school tuition rates turn away many potential legal geniuses who are just not able to pull the trigger when faced with the possibility of $150,000-$200,000 in student loan debt? Do attorneys littered through our corporate world and politics use their influence to ensure that there is a constant shortage of their own kind to maintain their power?
While I don’t know any of these answers, I do know one thing. As a follow-up to my last post about reciprocity between state bar licenses, the fitness evaluation fee and the bar exam fee for the one-day Georgia attorney’s exam combined are a whopping $1,374. Yes, $1,000 to re-evaluate my character and fitness when I just submitted myself to this process in Maryland a couple of years ago. And, yes, I would have to pay them $374 to repeat one of the most painful experiences of my life.
Needless to say, my plans to take the Georgia bar exam are on hold for now.