Oregon Supreme Court to consider alternative attorney licensing pathway | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Oregon Supreme Court to consider alternative attorney licensing pathway

Attorneys in Oregon may be able to bypass the bar exam if the Supreme Court approves a proposal for prospective lawyers to submit a legal portfolio instead.

(CN) — The Oregon Supreme Court held a meeting on Thursday to consider an attorney licensing pathway through the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners that would provide law graduates with an alternative to taking the state’s bar exam.

The Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination would require law graduates to complete 675 hours of supervised legal work and submit a portfolio that would convey a participant’s competency to practice law under the same grading guidelines set forth by bar examiners.

If passed, the alternative pathway would make Oregon one of the first U.S. states to provide an alternative to the bar exam, joining Wisconsin and New Hampshire. The proposal’s concept received tentative approval from Oregon’s high court in January after the state allowed 2020 law school graduates to bypass the exam.

But even if Oregon’s Supreme Court allows the pathway to move forward, presenters on Thursday took care to explain that the pathway would not be an easier route to become licensed.

In addition to the pathway’s required minimum hours — all of which would be spent completing tasks of a first-year lawyer — participants are expected to spend significant time preparing their portfolios, which would include at least eight legal writing samples and evidence of leading two client counseling sessions and two negotiation sessions.

Attorney Joanna Perini-Abbott, a volunteer member of the Oregon Board of Bar Examiners, said, “It's not abandoning of our examination, it's changing it to a portfolio based examination as one of the potential pathways for licensure.”

This also means that the only people who can participate in the pathway are those who secured a job upon graduation or currently hold a position. However, participants would not be asked to take courses outside of those required by an ABA-accredited law school or their practical training.

According to Perini-Abbott, the process of developing the pathway was a deliberative one involving experienced board members, practicing Oregon attorneys and national experts, including the National Conference of Bar Examiners and volunteers from the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. Should the court find issue with facets of the proposal, she requested amendments in lieu of an outright denial.

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