Oregon Supreme Court approves new pathway to practice law

Starting next May, law school graduates will have another way to earn their license to practice law.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:33 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Starting next May, law school graduates will have another way to earn their license to practice law.

“I’m really excited to be the first, kind of, class to be able to do this,” third-year law student at Willamette University, Caitlin Tolleson, said.

With graduation around the corner, she was already beginning to consider taking the Bar Exam next summer.

“Between Helix and Kaplan, I had started to look into that and quite frankly started to dread Bar prep because it can be taxing,” she said.

Then, last Tuesday, the Oregon Supreme Court approved the Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination. If students choose this path over taking the Oregon Bar Exam, they’ll be required to complete 675 hours under the supervision of a licensed Oregon attorney to create written work and a portfolio that will be reviewed by the Oregon Board of Bar Examiners.

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“What we have now which is, the student walks across the graduation stage, studies for a period of months to sit for a two-day exam, waits for another period of months to get their score back and then can begin contributing to the practice of law,” Willamette University’s College of Law Dean Brian Gallini said. “We hope to not just strengthen the relationship between legal education and practice but start that process for a graduate sooner.”

Gallini said when graduates choose the practice portfolio option, they can only work in Oregon whereas if someone takes the Bar Exam, you can practice law in other states.

“At no point is this an anti-bar exam initiative, right? We actually affirmatively want this exam to stay around because we want our graduates to have the flexibility to take their practice elsewhere,” Gallini said. “But we also think we should be thinking differently about how to address high need areas for the state of Oregon.”

Tolleson is already looking forward to taking advantage of this option after she graduates next year.

“I currently work in the public defender’s office and so, where I work now, and other offices like it, are perfect places for a student to learn and have that supervised pathway and I’m thrilled to be able to utilize it for my graduating class,” she said.

The Oregon State Bar had this to say about the announcement, “This apprenticeship model will open a second and equally rigorous pathway for aspiring lawyers to demonstrate that they have the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of Oregonians. This reflects years of work and input from lawyers, law schools, judges, students and community leaders. We are pleased to get the program off the ground.”