Maybe we never needed all that red tape

Though the bar exam is traditionally administered in July, the National Conference of Bar Examiners has already scheduled alternative dates for the fall. Meanwhile, a growing number of state bars have declared that they will permit new grads to practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney until the bar exam can be offered again. Other states are considering waiving the exam requirement entirely for people who complete a term of supervised practice.

All of which raises the question: Was the exam necessary in the first place? In an era of specialization, few lawyers will ever use more than a tiny fraction of the material covered on the bar exam. But, for state bar associations, the exams are a useful way to hold down the number of lawyers.

As the nation’s economy and health-care system struggle to adjust to the pandemic, more and more states are reexamining some of their oldest occupational and business regulations—rules that, although couched as protecting consumers, do far more to limit competition. And for those of us who have long questioned the supposed benefits of these policies, their erosion is welcome, even if the pandemic that caused it is not.

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