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Virginia not likely to adopt national bar exam

The National Law Journal has a very detailed article about the prospects for a national bar exam, noting that as many as 32 states are giving serious consideration to standardizing lawyer credentials nationwide.

Noticeably absent from the article is Virginia. W. Scott Street III, secretary to the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, says the board does not believe that such an exam is “the best way to protect the people.”

Although the VBBE uses the multi-state bar exam, as do all but two states, the board drafts the essay portion of the Virginia exam to focus on issues that unsophisticated consumers of legal services might encounter, such as criminal law, divorce, wills and real estate, Street said.

Those disciplines are so state specific that they are not amenable to a national bar exam, he said.

He said the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the major proponent of a national exam and the author of the multi-state exam, is “really conscientious about putting out a good battery of tests” and a national exam might be useful for smaller states who lack the resources to develop their own tests.

But enough of Virginia law is unique to the state that the board is unlikely to hop on the standardization bandwagon, he said.

At least the NLJ article is timely for aspiring Virginia lawyers. Street said the board hopes to post the results of the July exam on its Web site Friday afternoon.

By Alan Cooper

4 comments

  1. I passed the Virginia bar exam in 1980. I was assigned to Dallas with the Justice Department in 1983 and took the Texas bar exam in 1984. There was so much about Texas law I did not learn in Virginia while at law school.

    In Virginia, we did not take classes in Oil & Gas Law (3 of the 20 written questions on the Texas bar exam I took were in that area), Community Property (2 Texas bar questions on that), Wills & Trusts (not like Virginia law at all), or Texas civil & criminal procedure (an additional half day test on that — the first question on that exam was to explain “idem sonas” in an indictment or warrant).

    I think Scott Street is correct. A law student is likely to learn the state law of the state in which his/her law school is located. Notwithstanding the “Oil & Gas” questions unique to Texas and a couple of other states, a national bar exam would be a disservice to the public.

  2. I passed the Virginia bar exam in 1980. I was assigned to Dallas with the Justice Department in 1983 and took the Texas bar exam in 1984. There was so much about Texas law I did not learn in Virginia while at law school.

    In Virginia, we did not take classes in Oil & Gas Law (3 of the 20 written questions on the Texas bar exam I took were in that area), Community Property (2 Texas bar questions on that), Wills & Trusts (not like Virginia law at all), or Texas civil & criminal procedure (an additional half day test on that — the first question on that exam was to explain “idem sonas” in an indictment or warrant).

    I think Scott Street is correct. A law student is likely to learn the state law of the state in which his/her law school is located. Notwithstanding the “Oil & Gas” questions unique to Texas and a couple of other states, a national bar exam would be a disservice to the public.

  3. State and local customs are too varied for an effective national bar exam.

  4. State and local customs are too varied for an effective national bar exam.

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