Iowa Supreme Court Asks for Comments on Eliminating Bar Exam

By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Iowa Supreme Court is asking for public comment on the Iowa State Bar Association’s recommendation to allow graduates from the state’s two law schools to forgo the bar exam. The “diploma privilege” recommendation, similar to Wisconsin’s, would amend the current Iowa court rules. Under the recommendation, graduates of Drake University Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law would still be required to pass the character and fitness requirement before being licensed.

The court order also asks for public comment on the state bar’s recommendation to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination for applicants who wouldn’t qualify - those law graduates from another state law school.

The Iowa Supreme Court has exclusive authority over the admission and practice of attorneys in the state. Currently, attorneys in Iowa must have a juris doctorate degree from an accredited law school, be of good moral character and fitness, and pass the Iowa bar. The three-day bar exam consists of the Multistate Performance Test, the Multistate Essay Exam, the Multistate Bar Exam and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam.

The state bar’s blue ribbon committee reviewed licensing and legal education and looked for ways to increase the measure of competence and also save students money and keep more attorneys in the state. Graduates now must wait about four months to receive bar exam results and many are forced to take out students loans to cover this time out of work.

“The Blue Ribbon Committee report - the result of over six months of careful study by judges and lawyers across the state, including the both deans of Drake and Iowa law schools, voted unanimously to adopt the diploma privilege for those law students who successfully complete three years of course work as specified by the court and meet the strict requirements of the character and fitness background check,” Guy Cook, president of state bar, said Tuesday.

Attorneys interviewed by The Gazette in January on this recommendation had mixed feelings about eliminating the bar exam. Some were in favor because the bar has evolved over the years into multiple choice questions and doesn’t cover law pertaining to Iowa. Other attorneys were against it because they felt it was part of the licensing process.

Any interested organization, agency, or person can submit comments regarding the recommendations. Comments sent by email must be emailed to rules.comments@iowacourts.gov, must state “Bar Admission Process” in the subject line of the email, and must be sent as an attachment to the email in Microsoft Word format. Comments also may be delivered in person or mailed to the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319.

Any comments may be posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website. The deadline for comments is 4:30 p.m. July 14. A public hearing is set for Aug. 27, in the Iowa Supreme Court courtroom. The court will determine presenters at a later date.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@sourcemedia.net

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