Illinois has decided to make it harder to pass the bar exam, starting this year. The score required to receive a “pass” is going up by four points this year, and another four in the near future. So for this summer’s test, you’ll need 268 instead of 264. In July 2015, the minimum passing score will go up to 272.
What does it all mean? It will be more difficult to become an Illinois attorney, for sure, but not by that much. If you study and take the bar exam seriously, you’re probably going to pass anyway. If you’re unlucky enough to be on the cusp, you might not make it this year.
Illinois is not one of harder state bar exams to pass, and it should be harder. Not by just making the passing score higher. It should actually measure things that make sense, and be more of a true test of whether you will be a good lawyer. As it is, it measures your ability to memorize stuff, like the four elements of negligence claim what you need to make a will valid. It’s just a measure of how well you can take a test, in my opinion. There’s a writing portion, where you have to do a little more problem solving, but it still mostly involves the list of things you’ve memorized.
I suppose the bar exam weeds out those who aren’t serious about becoming lawyers, which is a good thing. We have too many already. I’m not saying that because I hate lawyers. I’m saying that because the number of Illinois attorneys far outweighs the number of available jobs.
I do feel sorry for any future bar exam takers. While they can check their scores online now, I’m sure they’ll be just as nervous as I was when I got the letter in the mail that said whether or not I passed or failed. That was as worried and scared as I’d every been and certainly as relieved as I’d ever been and I studied my butt off for that test.
But what I remember more than being nervous is the story that my bar exam instructor told us the first day of class that summer. He asked how many of us had been to the Daley Center or had clerking jobs where we saw inept attorneys handling cases. He reminded us that all of those people passed the bar exam so we could too. It was a comforting lesson but also a sad one. The goal should really be to want to be like the lawyers at court, not know that you are much better than they are.
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