No, I’m not making this up. The Supreme Judicial Court has added a new section to the Massachusetts bar examination called “Access to Justice.” Beginning in 2016, the exam will now require test takers to know topics of law on a variety of public interest law areas, including landlord/tenant law, consumer matters, and foreclosures.
While I appreciate the SJC helping to create traffic for this blog, I do wish the Board of Bar Examiners had considered other means of promoting access to justice for future lawyers. Having passed three separate bar exams of my own, I don’t believe any bar exam suffers from a lack of subject matters to be tested. And, I’m not as critical of the bar exam as other lawyers I know; the exam does test important areas of law, and by forcing future lawyers to study for it, prepares them to know the basics for practicing law. This is one reason why I support civil procedure being added to the multistate portion of the exam.
But, as any attorney will tell you, you learn to be an attorney by actually being an attorney (one reason why it’s called practicing law!). A much better way to promote access to justice would have been a reasonable pro bono requirement prior to bar admission, mandating that future lawyers spend time assisting with public interest cases. Such a requirement would teach future lawyers the law better than any bar exam could, as well as provide assistance to many clients who could really use this help.