The Washington State Supreme Court issued a pair of orders on Friday, March 15th that will create different pathways for aspiring attorneys to get their license to practice law in Washington State.

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Passing the Bar Exam has been the accepted means of getting your law license for centuries in the United States.  In fact, the history of the Bar goes back to the colonies when all of them had some form of exam by 1750 for aspiring attorneys.

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Not all Bar Exams are created equal by the way.  Some States Bars are less difficult than others.  California has long been considered the toughest to pass, but Washington State isn't far behind.  The Evergreen State is considered the third toughest Bar to pass.

The pass rate one of the lowest (47% according to with Oregon also listed with a low pass rate (40%).The WSSC has now created pathways for a law license that do not require the Bar Exam, following the lead of Oregon.  The Beaver State decide last year to move away from the test, going into effect in May of this year.


Modifications to the Bar Exam that happened during the pandemic, namely allowing those wanted to practice the State to opt out of taking the Bar because of COVID.  The Bar Licensure Task Force was created by former Chief Justice Debra Stephens to study the issue.

The State Supreme Court adopted changes to process of getting a law license.  The following are what stood out most

  • Adopt the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ NextGen bar exam by summer of 2026. This addresses many of the identified flaws in the current bar exam by focusing on real-world skills and practice.
  • Create three experiential-learning alternatives to the bar exam, one for law-school graduates, one for law-school students, and one for APR 6 law clerks (who are enrolled in a non-law school course of study).
WA State Supreme Court
  • Call for the investigation and adoption of assessments and programs to help ensure lawyers remain competent throughout their careers, not just upon the moment of licensure.
  • Reduce the experience requirement for out-of-state licensed attorneys from three to one year to be eligible to be licensed in Washington via admission by motion.
  • Reduce the bar exam minimum passing score from 270 to 266 (the score adopted during the pandemic).

The Court has not determined when the changes will take effect.  They will work with the Washington State Bar Association to create a plan and timeline for the changes to take effect.

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