Bar Examinations and Bar Passage

What Law Must Lawyers Know?

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



minimum competence


What constitutes the body of legal knowledge that every lawyer must possess? I used to know, or think I did, but no longer. I suspect no one else knows either. This difficult question is not just an intriguing theoretical matter but also an urgent, practical problem. Licensing regulators assume that minimal competence in any profession requires certain fundamental knowledge, skills, and abilities. Bar examiners must determine what knowledge, skills, and abilities are necessary for minimum competence as an attorney and then design tests and other requirements to attempt to align licensure with minimum competence. Today’s tangled attorney licensing puzzle cannot be solved without better answers to this foundational question: what law must every lawyer know?