Committee defers decision on two-day bar exam
By Laura Ernde
The Committee of Bar Examiners voted last month to indefinitely
postpone the idea of shortening the bar exam from three days to two.
Senior Director of Admissions Gayle Murphy still favors the
change, but said it’s a question of timing. Her office is dealing with a number
of other State Bar projects right now, including a computer system upgrade, an
internal operations review and an upcoming move of the bar’s Los Angeles office.
Another factor is the Board of Trustees’ decision to pursue competency training requirements
for newly admitted lawyers, which could affect the staff’s workload. The admissions
office would be responsible for ensuring that applicants completed the
“Implementation of those new requirements and a change in
the format of the bar examination may be just a little too much for applicants
to process at one time,” Murphy wrote in a memo to the Committee of Bar
The committee has researched the idea of shortening the test
for several years and held a public forum in May. What emerged was a proposal to have one day set aside for written
testing and one day for the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination,
weighted equally for grading purposes. One essay question and one performance
test would be cut.
Experts have confirmed that a two-day test would still
provide an accurate measure of the test-taker’s minimum competence in the law.
However, there remains a perception that a two-day exam would be easier and
that reducing the essay portion would send a message to law schools that legal
writing isn’t as important, her memo said.
The benefits of a two-day exam would include efficiency and
cost savings. There’s also the possibility that it would reduce the time it
takes to grade the exam.
Many consider the California bar exam to be the toughest of
its kind in the country, not because of its length but because it requires a
higher score to pass.