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Iowa's Debating No Bar Exam for In State Grads; What About UBE?

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The bar exam was the most stressful time of my entire life. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, except ... I went through the suck, most lawyers go through the suck, and YOU TOO SHOULD GO THROUGH THE SUCK! It's a rite of passage, a filter to remove the barely literate and the incomprehensibly lazy, especially in states with ridiculously high passage rates, like Iowa, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Proponents of the move argue that it will help grads avoid four months of stress (boo hoo) and accrued student loan interest, but here's a better idea, one that Iowa is also considering, but nobody is talking about: adopt the Uniform Bar Exam, especially since, as Iowans may already know, they are basically using it anyway.

Grant a Diploma Privilege?

The big debate at the moment, within the Iowa State Bar, is whether the bar exam is really necessary for in-state grads. After all, the state only has two law schools, both of which have extremely high passage rates. Since passage is pretty much a foregone conclusion, a diploma privilege, much like the one in Wisconsin, would save students thousands of dollars in bar review expenses and student loan interest while they are studying for the bar.

The Iowa Supreme Court has already received over 150 pages of comments, reports The Des Moines Register. Local District Judge Myron Gookin echoed my somewhat facetious statement about the bar exam being a filter.

"At a time when our world and the law is more complex than ever, however, I do not believe that giving our Drake and Iowa law students 'a pass' on the bar exam is prudent," he wrote. "There is still a great value in the examination process. And, obviously, it also weeds out those candidates who are not qualified to practice."

Others pointed to the bar's 6.8 percent failure rate as evidence that the exam isn't filtering out anyone. We'd argue that if you think the current members of the bar are bad, imagine who those 6.8 percent might be. While it is undeniably true that bar failure does not mean you aren't cut out to be a lawyer, the odds are almost certainly higher for those folks.

How About The Uniform Bar Exam?

The better part of the proposal, which no one is talking about, is adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination.

Why? They're already using it, except without the cross-state transferability or reciprocity. The UBE consists of the Multistate Bar Exam (the painful multiple guess test in use in nearly all states), the Multistate Essay Exam, and the Multistate Performance Test.

According to BarBri, Iowa's bar exam consists of the MBE, the MEE, and the MPT as well, but they have not formally labeled it the UBE. Aspiring attorneys take the same test, but don't get all the benefits of a UBE score, like the ability to gain admission to the other fourteen UBE jurisdictions and vice versa.

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