Bar Examinations and Bar Passage

Standardized Clients: A Possible Improvement for the Bar Exam

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



bar exam design


As this Article describes below, medical educators have been working with standardized patients for more than three decades and have accumulated an extraordinary amount of data that validates their use of this method. Much work remains before legal educators can realistically talk about using a similar technique as a component of law school grades, let alone as part of a high stakes test such as the bar exam. Thus, while not an immediate option, it is possible that at some future date the use of standardized clients might enhance the efficacy of a [Public Service Alternative Bar Examination ('PSABE')]. None of this appropriate skepticism, however, should preclude serious consideration of the Joint Proposal for a PSABE, irrespective of the possible future use of standardized clients. Nor should this caution deter legal educators from considering the standardized client as a future component of the public service bar exam or of any other innovative bar admission proposal. Some people may feel that it is too much of a stretch to initiate discussion about changing bar exams simply on the basis of the experience of medical educators. I remain encouraged, however, by John Sexton's call for us to '[think] outside the box' regarding the training of lawyers.

"Part I describes the Joint Proposal for a PSABE, its genesis, its political development, and key unanswered questions. Part II discusses in some detail my recent work in further developing the standardized client in a law school curricular context. Part III discusses the similarities between some of the tasks of doctors and of lawyers. Then, building on the experience of medical educators, this Article sets forth proposed empirical analyses for the use of standardized clients. The legal profession might do well, once again, to follow the lead of the medical profession in better serving the public's continuing need for competent and caring professionals. Stating it differently: Is it reasonable to think ahead to a time when the standardized client will be an integral part of the bar exam?" (843–844).