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Examining the Bar

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The Iowa Bar Association has recommended to the Iowa State Supreme Court that Iowa’s law schools should institute a “diploma privilege” for graduates of Iowa's law schools, meaning that graduates wouldn’t have to take the bar exam to practice law in the state.

Is allowing lawyers who haven’t passed a bar exam to practice a good idea? President of the Iowa State Bar Association Guy Cook says it’s an overdue change, “Iowa’s bar exam doesn’t test knowledge of Iowa law. This proposal wouldn’t work everywhere, but in Iowa, it could.”

Cook says a committee of Iowa attorneys are behind the recommendation and are modeling their proposal after the state of Wisconsin’s system. Wisconsin has granted in-state law students a diploma privilege since its law schools were established. He says he might be more skeptical of doing away with the bar if there weren’t a “laboratory” right next door.

Others are more skeptical. State Representative and Boone-based attorney Chip Baltimore says the process of preparing for the bar is invaluable, “as a lawyer, you spend time preparing for a few big events every so often, the bar is practice for the stress and time management that goes along with that.”

During this hour on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Cook and Baltimore about the proposed change. We’ll also hear from Natalie Virden, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa Law School; Jim Morrison, a circuit judge in Wisconsin, and Meg Gaines, Associate Dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School.

The Supreme Court is seeking public comment on the proposal until July 14. You can find more information about how to submit opinions here. 

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer