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Link between lower CA bar scores, increased malpractice acts?

The relative difficulty of attorney bar exams in the various states is understandably subject matter that occasionally crops up among law school students, professors and deans, as well as in the offices of legal regulators across the country.

And when it does, it is often the case that talk of California's bar exam prominently surfaces, and for obvious reasons.

Foremost is this: The California bar examination is considered to be notoriously difficult, with passage/failure rates clearly evidencing its onerous nature.

Here's a fact: Close to two of every three applicants who took the exam in the spring of this year failed it. And only a paltry 43% passed last year's summer offering.

Many critics -- including the deans of multiple law schools across the state -- say that he exam is so onerous and even insuperably difficult for many that California authorities need to lower the standard and ratchet up the passage rate.

That view is not unanimous, though.

Notably, two law professors at Pepperdine University are not among those clamoring for change. Indeed, those legal professionals recently released the results of a study indicating that there is a direct and material correlation between a lowered bar passage rate and increased malpractice acts.

The study authors say that a rigorous test and high hurdle imposed on applicants serves "as a meaningful consumer protection check," and that a dumbed-down testing platform would foster new and troubling problems for an increased number of California clients needing competent legal services.

Close evaluation of relevant bar exam statistics over a 40-year-plus period, say the professors, indicates that dropping the required score to let in more attorneys will yield "a substantially higher probability of state bar discipline" related to malpractice matters.

And that result would clearly disservice the public.

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