College of Law holds symposium
on bar exam alternatives

Signal Outline
February 03, 2004

The Georgia State University College of Law and the Georgia State Law Review held a symposium on Thursday discussing alternatives to the bar exam that students must take in order to practice law.

The symposium sought to bridge the gap between the written works of the “inadequacies” of the bar exam and the “practical questions raised by proposals for alternative methods for licensing lawyers.”

The symposium featured lecturers from across the nation including professionals, deans and other academics from the medical and legal backgrounds.

Dr. David Stern discussed the program for licensing doctors that features two years of study in a clinical setting and advocated for a national licensing with national standards instead of the exams of that currently vary from state to state.

Lawrence M. Gosberg, a professor of law at the New York Law school and the director of the Lawyering Skills Center, proposed that law students be required to practice their skills on actors that put students in real situations and then give them feedback on their skills and approaches from a perspective different from that of a law professor.

This method, called the “standardized patient,” is commonly used in the medical profession to evaluate doctors performance and behaviors.

Kristin Booth Glen, Dean of the City University of New York Law School, proposed a public-service alternative to the bar exam. This alternative would have two effects, first it would actually train lawyers to be lawyers during law school; second, it fulfill a need — legal help to low income families or persons — while providing legal assistance to small businesses.

Toni Massarro, Dean of the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, and Sally Simpson, a student at the University of Arizona College of Law, proposed a one year post J.D. apprenticeship.

This would give t lawyers experience in the field and help to fill the service gap between the poor and small businesses and research by promoting interdisciplinary “think tanks” that will be completed as part of the bar licensing procedure.

Finally, Sophie Sparrow, Professor and Director of Legal Skills at the Franklin Pierce Law School in New Hampshire proposed eliminating some parts of the bar exam and instead focusing on certain courses that will reinforce the elements of the exam. These courses would also build on each other and add practice programs that will help students learn and practice law.

In addition to the symposium, an issue of the Law Review will be available, featuring seven articles from leading scholars in the field as well as other perspectives and viewpoints from bar associations, bar examiners, and state supreme courts. More information on the Georgia State University College of Law and the Georgia State Law Review can be found at http://law.gsu.edu/.