Oregon law students won’t be required to take traditional bar exam in 2024

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon State Bar is one of the latest organizations to move away from traditional standardized testing.

Starting next May, law students won’t be required to pass the bar exam in order to start practicing law.

Instead, students will have the option to partake in the Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination. This framework allows students to participate in a post-graduation apprenticeship before submitting a work portfolio to the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners.

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The Oregon Supreme Court first approved the proposal for traditional exam alternatives in January. In the following months, the state bar’s Licensure Pathway Development Committee established two new examinations — with the SPPE being approved by officials in early November.

The other option, Oregon Experiential Portfolio Pathway, which would allow students across three law schools statewide to undergo a “rigorous experiential curriculum” during their second or third year of school, before submitting a work portfolio to the bar examiners. This alternative hasn’t been submitted to officials yet.

There are just two other states that don’t require the bar exam for potential lawyers: Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

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Wisconsin is the sole state that offers ‘diploma privilege,’ which deems law school graduates automatically eligible for practicing law. In New Hampshire, aspiring lawyers are admitted to the state bar as long as they graduate from a rigorous two-year honors program.

So far, Oregon is the first state to offer apprenticeships as a replacement for the bar exam. The development committee said this method, and the potential experiential curriculum, will “best serve Oregon Consumers.”

In July 2023, 69% of examinees passed the Oregon bar. In February, that number was just 40%.

“The foremost guiding principle of the LPDC has been to ensure that the new examinations protect legal consumers by adequately measuring applicants’ competence to practice law while not placing unnecessary or inequitable barriers between an examinee and licensure,” the Licensure Pathway Development Committee said.

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Oregon law students can opt into the new exam starting on May 15 of next year. Aspiring lawyers will still have the option to take the traditional exam.

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