Washington Supreme Court Waives Bar Exam Requirement

for all J.D. graduates of law schools accredited by the American Bar Association who are already registered for the July or Sept. 2020 bar exams.


It's a "temporary" order, presumably in the sense that next year's prospective bar members would indeed still have to take the bar; but it looks like anyone who qualifies this year will get permanent Washington bar membership status.

This sort of "diploma privilege" had also long been available in Wisconsin, but only to graduates of the Wisconsin law schools (University of Wisconsin and Marquette); this is open to graduates of all ABA-accredited law schools.

Thanks to Dean Paul Caron (TaxProf Blog) for the pointer.

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  1. I presume employers would still favor those who have taken the bar over those who have not … would you still have the option?

    And in general, making the requirement an option to stand out among applicants but not a requirement seems like a move in the right direction, even without a pandemic.

    1. Aladdin’s Carpet: (1) My guess is that the overwhelming majority of this year’s graduates won’t take the bar.

      (2) My guess is also that most employers would be perfectly happy relying on grades (as they already do) rather than on whether the particular applicant took the bar or not. The Washington Bar passage rate is 68.5%; you learn very little about a person’s lawyerly qualities just from that.

      (3) You may be right that people who got very bad grades might want to take the bar, because for them passing the bar will be a significant credential, and might encourage some employers to take a chance on them. But for people with good grades, and likely even with middling grades, studying for the bar and taking the bar will provide very little benefit, for a huge investment of time and effort.

      (I use “grades” here as shorthand for the grades/law school ranking mix that employers are likely to consider.)

      1. In my experience, employers are willing to hire someone with good grades who fails the bar once, maybe even twice if they have a famous name, but grades won’t overcome multiple failures. Like rsteinmetz, I’ve encountered people who failed the bar several times and refused any offer of help. One insisted that despite three past failures, she knew how to take the bar. She even turned down help from a colleague who was a bar examiner. On the Monday after her fourth failure, she came to my office and wondered if she was going to be fired because she couldn’t sign in to her office account. She was. Her high GPA and great school didn’t save her.

  2. That means that 31.5% didn’t learn enough in law school to pass the bar exam. Then there are all those people who graduated in the past and hadn’t previously passed, no doubt some of them are included in that 31.5%.

    Do all those people get a pass as well? If not isn’t that discriminatory?

    I know when I took the Architectural Registration Examination it was still a proctored group examination (it’s now a computerized individual examination). Many people showed up to take the exam for the 3rd, 4th or 5th time. They were warmly greeted by the staff of the board like the old friends they were. I worked with one fellow who had taken the examination something 10 times and never passed. I tried to explain to him what was wrong with his approach but he just wouldn’t hear of it. I didn’t think he would ever pass and I don’t think he ever did, but after we both changed jobs I lost track of him so I don’t really know.

  3. I have never practiced in wa but I passed the wa bar exam. It was not a difficult test. I would have to say that I would question your qualifications if you failed the wa bar exam. If I were in charge of wa bar admissions I would not have waived the exam for repeat takers. Most states that allow admission on motion will not allow it if you failed the bar exam of the state to which you are seeking admission.

  4. Does the Washington State Supreme Court have the authority to do that?

    The Wisconsin diploma privilege was established by statute.

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