VIEWPOINT: South Dakota's Bar Exam conundrum: Boldly embracing innovation
Guest column by Samuel R. Kephart
The South Dakota Bar Exam Committee has been diligently working to study and address the critical issues surrounding our state's bar exam. Reflecting on the testing changes implemented in 2015, it’s clear we must continue to evolve and adapt better ways to ensure a fair and effective professional licensing process for aspiring lawyers in our state.
A look back: 2015 Bar Exam changes and consequences
In 2015, South Dakota transitioned to a new bar exam format that has drawn attention for its unique approach. Our state’s bar exam is the only one in the country that does not allow the written and multiple-choice components to be combined to obtain a passing score. Furthermore, South Dakota is the only state that does not scale the subjective written exam to the objectively scored multiple-choice exam, as recommended by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).
Since the implementation of these significant changes, our bar exam passage rates have declined, and many law graduates have left South Dakota to pursue their legal careers elsewhere. Consequently, South Dakota ranks 46th out of 50 states in per capita lawyers, leaving many of our citizens without affordable access to legal representation. This shortage has contributed to a growing perception of a two-tier justice system in our state, favoring those who can afford legal counsel.
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