This week, the Arizona Supreme Court will consider a proposal, backed by all three Arizona law schools, to let third year law students take the February bar exam prior to graduation. This proposal was created directly in response to the current legal market and the increasing cost of legal education. The Arizona schools believe this allowance would not only lessen law school debt, but would also help move students into the legal market sooner.
Students who wish to take the February bar exam would be allowed to do so only if “they were due to graduate within 120 days of that date and had been certified by their respective law school as prepared for the test’s rigors.” They would then take a bar preparation course in lieu of a traditional course load in January or February. After the bar exam, the students would devote the rest of their semester to “nontraditional courses designed to help them enter practice, including clinics, externships or classes covering law office management or professionalism.”
In response to critics, supporters of the Arizona proposal argue that it is different from previous unsuccessful attempts to implement an early bar exam allowance because those law schools did not modify their curriculum to help students balance bar prep with class work. They also assert that the current legal market has vastly changed the law school environment and that the proposal will be an effective response to how it is now.