Research Skills to Be Tested on US Bar Exams?

Nancy Soonpaa writes:

According to the May 2006 issue of The Bar Examiner, the National Conference of Bar Examiners is looking at the need for and feasibility of testing legal research skills and “is at the first stage in allowing the idea of such an evaluation to germinate . . . our inquiry is expected to last through the next year.”

The article indicates that the NCBE folks are working with academic law librarians to investigate the possibilities.

Found at the Legal Writing Prof Blog.

How do Canadian and American bar exams compare in their testing of legal research skills? Do any Slawers know? I’m glad to see that law librarians are involved in the discussions.


  1. Excuse my sense of déja vu. Didn’t Bob MacCrate’s report have an entire chapter on this back in 1992?

    The guts of it with detailed checklists were in Chapter 5 which is only summarized at

    But MacCrate thought this was best done in a skills-focussed transition year (articling anyone) and didn’t see this as tied in to the pressure cooker of the bar exams, which couldn’t assess legal research skills unless completely rethought.

  2. In Quebec, the bar exams – at least, when I was in Bar school – did not test the legal research skills. After thinling about it, yes it did: you had to be able to find the answer in the footnotes of the books…

  3. It may well be that a real test of research skills – a mass of confused facts and no indication where applicable law is to be found – is untestable in an examination format.

    When I taught the course at Osgoode, we were always mindful of the fact that if students were sent off after the same sources, the books would simply disappear; and it was tough to set parallel assignments of equivalent difficulty.

    Yes it would be possible to set a test that relied on students accessing Canlii, Westlaw-ECarswell, Lexis-Nexis (QL), Soquij and the sites maintained by the legislateurs – but that wouldn’t be a test of legal research skills: see passim