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Could the bar exam go the way of the dodo?

Iowa considers letting law school graduates work without taking the bar exam

You’ve heard the saying – “As goes Iowa, so goes the nation?” No? The Hawkeye State has never been known as a bellwether for the legal world, but an interesting proposal in the state could have ramifications for lawyers there – and could set a tone that spreads across the nation. 

The current proposal would allow students attending law schools in Iowa, such as Drake University and the University of Iowa, to take extra courses on Iowa law, pass an ethics exam and a background check in order to start working as attorneys. The Iowa bar exam no longer tests Iowa-specific laws, which some say makes it unsuited for measuring the competency of a new attorney.


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Proponents of the measure see it as a way to encourage young lawyers. They would be able to get to work faster, as they would not have to wait for the results of the bar exam, which can take up to four months. Advocates believe it would also encourage more Iowa graduates to stay in state to practice.

Not everyone is on board with the proposal, however. Some believe that the shortcut around the bar exam would create a crop of incompetent lawyers and damage the reputation of the Iowa bar.

The decision is now in the hands of the Iowa Supreme Court, which has fielded comments from Iowa residents and attorneys. There will also be a public meeting to discuss the plan and then the court will decide.

Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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