Last month, I attended the Western States Bar Conference on behalf of the HSBA alongside other bar representatives from 16 states west of the Mississippi. The experience was quite informative and I was especially intrigued by the discourse regarding bar membership in other states.
A recent New York Times article discussing the value of the bar exam, incorporated into the March 22, 2015 issue of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, served as a starting point for my conversations. Although this debate is not new, the recently released results from the July 2014 bar exam indicated national bar passage rates were the poorest in nearly a decade. One explanation for these results, offered by representatives from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, are that the applicants who took the July 2014 exam were, simply put, less able than previous exam applicants. Law school enrollments across the country have been on a decline presumably because the job market for qualified new lawyers has been on a decline. Although this conclusion about “less able” applicants panders to those who have already passed the bar, I am unsure if such a wide conclusion is accurate.
As some of you are aware, states like Arizona, Iowa, and New Hampshire are exploring other options for prospective lawyers to gain licensure. Apprenticeships and a “diploma privilege”, where graduates of a state law school are automatically admitted to practice within the state, are possible alternatives. The Hawaii Supreme Court is addressing this issue as well and has asked the Board of Examiners for its recommendations. I would love to hear your opinions regarding the necessity of a mandatory State bar exam as a prerequisite to attorney licensure.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to Bobby Chong and the hardworking members of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Board of Examiners. As some of you may know, Bobby has been on the Board since 1979 and the Chair since 1993. He will be given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the upcoming Hawaii Women Lawyers Annual Awards on April 17, 2015 at the Plaza Club. Other recipients include: Ms. Janet Kelly, HWL’s Outstanding Woman Lawyer of the Year; Hon. Jennifer L. Ching, HWL’s Outstanding Judicial Achievement Award; Hon. Karen M. Radius (ret.), HWL’s Distinguished Service Award; and the Women of Wai’anae, who will be given HWL’s President’s Award.
Finally, I’d like to invite all of you to watch latest episode of the 3-D series, aptly entitled, “Professionalism Over the Years
”, featuring guests Jim Duffy (JD# 775), Carroll Taylor (JD# 906), and Donald Wong (JD# 909). I particularly enjoyed this installment, as these men continue exemplify what it means to be a legal professional in Hawaii.