Letter to the editor: Leanne Fuith's "Is there a better way to admit lawyers?"

I was disheartened by Leanne Fuith’s article disparaging the validity of the bar exam. While some of her points such as adequately testing the ability for real life application and practice are important - that's not really something you can ever adequately test with any licensing exam whether it be law, nursing, medical, etc. The ability to PRACTICE law or any other profession is a skill that is honed with time and experience; to say that this is something that could be assessed at the beginning of someone’s career by any standardized exam is nonsense. However, there must be a general exam to assess minimum competency in any professional career, otherwise anyone could practice law, medicine, etc. To say we should eliminate it because it‘s “too hard” and “doesnt test real life practice” misses the point of testing for basic skills which is what the bar exam does: tests for minimum competency and performance under time restraints/pressure. To also say we should eliminate it because minority pass rates are lower than their white counterparts is flawed and myopic. She is essentially saying that minorities have a lesser capability of passing it, which is inherently racist at its core. I am equally appalled by her assumption that the bar exam is a “measure of privilege and opportunity” for a select group of people. I was born in a small, rural, lower class community with parents who strongly discouraged education and my choice to attend college or go to law school because I was a girl. I was told I should get married and let a man support me. After I was finally admitted to a tier 3 evening law school program from which I was denied twice, I worked full time during the day and completed coursework, in person, at night. I took out loans and never had support financially or emotionally from family. Due to financial considerations, I pushed off taking the bar immediately and I worked over a decade before sitting for the MN bar exam. As a full time working mother of two toddlers I studied for 6 months in evenings, on weekends, and every spare moment in between to prepare for the bar - 11 yrs after I graduated from law school. I passed the bar because I was dedicated, persevered and had grit and the mental will to study with the goal to pass. I didnt pass it because I had “better access or privilege.” To suggest that a certain group of people automatically attend the best law schools full time, with supportive parents who foot the bill and waltz into the bar exam with the privileged ability to pass it like its a cake walk is short sighted and insulting to those of us, regardless of race or gender, who have struggled to acheive their goals. Each person experiences hardship and everyone, regardless of race and gender responds to challenges in different ways. EVERYONE, regardless of race or gender, CAN pass the bar. If access is a problem then let’s attack that issue. Rather than eliminating the bar exam due to racial and gender disparities in pass rates, perhaps provide additional scholarships or programs that provide support to help those who are disadvantaged financially and socially - but please do not equate bar passage to gender or race.  To throw up our hands and eliminate it completely for reasons provided in her article is not practical. Is change necessary? Perhaps, but not for the oversimplified reasons that she suggests. Kind Regards, Dana Quitmeyer Eads