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Death, Taxes, Bar Exams, and Access to Justice in Oregon

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The Feb/March 2009 issue of the Oregon State Bar (OSB) Bulletin has an interesting editorial by Oregon attorney John Gear: A Better Beginning:

There is no shortage of commentary on the life, death, and value of bar exams (including bar exam humor from Blawg Review), but that is as it should be.

Excerpt: “As a transplant attorney, still fairly new to Oregon, it is with some trepidation and thoughts of tilting at windmills that I write to propose fundamental changes to the state’s bar admission practices. However, after reading the December bar Bulletin, I find I must.

As Karen Garst’s “Breaking Barriers” farewell essay (December 2008) showed, awareness of the pointlessness of making attorneys retake the bar exam as a penalty for moving to Oregon is not limited to those who have to suffer the exercise. What is less appreciated is the full cost of this arbitrary and capricious requirement for attorneys, which even extends to the Multistate Professional Responsibility examination.

In the same issue of the magazine, “Hard Times for Access to Justice” provided another in an endless stream of articles and speeches by legal worthies bemoaning the tiny life raft of free or low-cost legal aid being swamped on the tsunami of demand. Meanwhile, each year, Oregon wastes a vast and valuable resource that could be helping many more low-income Oregonians get the legal help they need to deal with life’s struggles: transplant attorneys and new law grads who waste hundreds (and, often, thousands) of dollars and countless hours preparing for an examination that has no demonstrated relationship to competence, determination or likelihood of success as an attorney….” (link to full editorial)