Law Students

Should 3Ls Be Allowed to Take the Bar Exam?
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Summary: More states should take Arizona’s lead and allow 3Ls to take the bar exam.

In December 2012, Arizona state made a dramatic change to its bar exam. The Arizona Supreme Court approved letting qualified 3L law students take the February test, starting in 2014.


“The main goal would be to allow our students the opportunity to get licensed sooner and affectively decrease the cost of their legal education,” Judy Stinson, associate dean for academic affairs at Arizona State University College of Law, said to The National Jurist. “If students take the bar in February, they can be licensed in May and start working right away.”

For other states, law students must wait after graduation to take the July bar exam. They usually end up studying over the summer, and because they are unable to practice law, they are stuck with student loans but no decent way to pay them back for months.

Arizona’s groundbreaking move is still being tested, but it’s surprising that other states such as California are still requiring bar exam test takers to have a J.D. before applying to take the test. After all, the third year of law school has been frequently criticized for being “a waste.”

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President Barack Obama has suggested that law schools lop off the third year because it is unnecessary and expensive. While the first two years of law school are filled with classes such as contracts and legal ethics, the third year is often a time for electives, which gives students a serious case of senioritis.

Marc Miller, dean of the University of Arizona College of Law, said these critiques are why Arizona took action.

“I think this will help to change the conversation nationally,” Miller said. “I think it is the most significant response to the current critique of legal education in the country, because it affectively lowers the cost because by allowing students to begin working earlier and it makes professional licensing a part of the course of legal education.”

Business Insider spoke to Rita Florez, a law student at the University of Missouri, who agreed with the uselessness of being a 3L.

“You get to 3L and you’re just like, why I am here?” Florez said. “I had a lot of classmates who skipped frequently.”

Although the case for 3Ls to take the bar exam while still in school and not waiting until July is strong, it is up to states and law schools to follow Arizona’s lead.

“This kind of innovation is only possible in a state where the court is willing to think about new directions and where the bench and bar are willing to be open to it,” Miller told UA News. “While the law schools took the lead in proposing this, you need an entire state legal institution that’s willing to conduct a thoughtful experiment.”

Why do you think more states do not allow 3Ls to take the bar exam? Let us know in the comments below. 


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