Modern Bar Examination

One of the most significant changes of the past 100 years has been the abolishment of the law study clerkship as a method of satisfying the legal education requirements. Effective in 1971, a candidate must have completed the study of law and be in receipt of a Juris Doctor degree from an American Bar Association 1   accredited law school in order to sit for the bar examination. In the late 1960's, other states raised their eligibility requirements, which resulted in the need for the Court to require a Juris Doctor degree to maintain Pennsylvania's reputation of licensing competent attorneys.

Long ago, it was decided that the bar examination would be given twice a year for two days. This philosophy continues 100 years later. Today's bar examination consists of a performance test and six locally crafted essay questions on the first day, and the Multistate Bar Examination on the second day. The Multistate Bar Examination, first administered in 1972, consists of a nationally standardized 200 question multiple-choice test covering six subject areas. 2  

Although the procedures for bar admissions have evolved, they have not changed substantially since the inception of the Board of Law Examiners. Even today, the modern bar examination is designed to ensure that the standards accurately reflect the level of minimum competency necessary to practice law. The Board continues to evaluate the requirements needed to practice law in the ever-changing legal community to ensure that the high standards of the bar are maintained. As the times change, so do the requirements placed on candidates by the Supreme Court and the Board of Law Examiners.

1. The American Bar Association was formed in 1878 to develop a national process for ensuring the quality of education of a prospective lawyer. They established the law school accreditation standards in 1921 and began certification of law schools in 1923.

2. The six subject areas were Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Evidence, Real Property and Torts.