May 9, 2014

In First, Mass. Adds ‘Access to Justice’ to Bar Exam

5 Comments · Posted by Robert Ambrogi in General

Starting in July 2016, prospective lawyers taking the Massachusetts bar exam will be tested not just on traditional topics such as constitutional law, torts and property, but also on access to justice.

On April 25, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court approved a rule adding access to justice to the exam and indicating that applicants will be expected to be familiar with the topic. The rule makes Massachusetts the first state to add this topic to the bar exam.

The new rule specifies that exam questions related to access to justice may cover these topics:

Landlord-Tenant, including evictions, affirmative defenses and counterclaims, and fee-shifting statutes; Foreclosures; Divorce, including child custody, support, visitation; Termination of Parental Rights; Domestic Abuse; Guardianship and Conservatorship; Consumer Matters, including debt collection, predatory lending and unfair or deceptive practices; Health Care Proxies, Power of Attorney, Advance Directives; Due Process doctrines related to fair hearings, civil commitment and civil right to counsel; Representation of nonprofit organizations; and Ethical rules including Massachusetts Rules of Professional Responsibility 1.2, 1.5, 1.14, 1.15, 4.3, 6.1, 6.5 and Limited Assistance Representation.

The rule came about through the recommendation of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission. The commission reasoned:

The Bar Examination’s goal of ensuring that new lawyers are minimally competent to enter the profession also requires that new lawyers are prepared to solve the civil problems most often faced by low and middle income people. Given the changing nature of the legal profession and the Justice Gap, it is essential that new lawyers in Massachusetts be prepared to handle cases and provide assistance in the key substantive areas in which the Justice Gap is prominent. Lawyers ill-equipped to work in these areas will be ill-prepared to handle cases that might produce income and be essential to their professional survival, particularly those in solo practice or small firms. They also will be unable to provide needed pro bono assistance.

The commission’s report recommended that testing on access to justice be part of the essay portion of the exam. It offered several illustrations of possible essay questions, such as this:

In a real estate transaction the contract calls for delivery of the property free of tenants, but a tenant reports that there are conditions in need of repair in her apartment and she has a rent subsidy to assist her with the rent.

The Access to Justice Commission’s recommendation was endorsed by the state Board of Bar Examiners last September.

 

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5 comments

  • pjeagle · May 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    A tip of the cap for this new development certainly goes to Jim Van Buren and John Carroll and others who worked so hard for so many years to push this issue to the forefront of the profession’s attention.

    Pat Daly

    Reply

  • Anna · May 10, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Wonderful! Hope other states follow Massachusetts Bar Exam! Massachusetts are the Leaders Again for Everyone! I am Proud of Massachusetts Bar!!

    Reply

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    […] Ambrogi reports that Massachusetts will be the first state with a bar exam that includes questions in the […]

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  • ABA access to justice blog | Access to Justice Headlines – May 19, 2014 · May 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

    […] 5.9.14 – “Starting in July 2016, prospective lawyers taking the Massachusetts bar exam will be tested not just on traditional topics such as constitutional law, torts and property, but also on access to justice.  On April 25, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court approved a rule adding access to justice to the exam and indicating that applicants will be expected to be familiar with the topic. The rule makes Massachusetts the first state to add this topic to the bar exam.”  (Robert Ambrogi’s Law Blog) […]

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  • Access to Justice Topic added to the Massachusetts Bar Examination |Legal Magazine · June 10, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    […] Lawsites offers some information about it. […]

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