The bar exam in Ohio is stuck in antiquity. The questions are screwy and the grading is subjective. Imagine that you are a bar examiner and you have to grade hundreds of long handwritten answers to an essay question. God help you.

The time has come for change. Hundreds of bar examiners should be scoring answers and drafting exam questions, rather than just a few. There are plenty of lawyers in Ohio who would be willing to undertake the chore. The Supreme Court is rolling money from IOLTA fees from banks. Put the money to good use. Examiners ought to be paid for their time. The work should be spread around. An example of how it could be done is the way AP highschool exams are graded. Examiners are put up in a hotel and work about 8 hours a day scoring questions in groups.

Each question should be vetted by say 10 examiners. Trick nuances in the question requiring knowledge of a specific arcane legal points should be eliminated, i.e. no questions about agister’s lien in Ohio. The question should reflect legal reasoning about a subject and a knowledge of major issues in that area of the law.

Answers should be graded blind by multiple examiners and points assigned with no knowledge of the grading of other examiners. Once the scores are assigned, then perhaps the high and low should be tossed out and the scores averaged. Any question which gets below a certain score should be reviewed by the group as a whole to determine whether the score should be raised.

All failing exams should be given a review to determine if any should be moved into the passing category.

Poor handwriting should be accommodated. While I am sure that many candidates now type the answer on a computer, some still write longhand. If an exam is unreadable or even difficult to read, the candidate should be offered the opportunity to type a literal copy of the answer, so the examiner can easily read it. I would call this the Siferd opportunity. One of my children took the exam in another state and had the handwriting problem. Her handwriting was artistic and very stylized. She did great on some questions, but poorly on a couple of questions. I can imagine being a bar examiner and coming to her handwritten answer, and thinking “Not another one.” Anyway she was able to appeal the failing score and in doing so had to submit a typewritten copy of her answers on the questions with the low scores. The examiners could easily read her answer. Her appeal was successful.

I am not one of those persons that thinks everyone should pass the bar exam, or that the exam should be eliminated. It should be rigorous but fair. It is time to think about it and bring it into the twentieth century (this is not a typo.) Nothing in the law moves fast. When I started, there was still a lawyer practicing who had “read” law, rather than go to law school. He was an excellent lawyer.