Oregon Becomes Trailblazer in New Attorney Licensing Pathway, Task Force to Receive Award

November 8, 2023

"view of river between mountains covered with fall foliage"Oregon made history this week by becoming the first U.S. state to introduce a new pathway for attorney licensing, allowing law school graduates to become licensed lawyers without the need for the traditional bar exam or graduating from an in-state law school. 

The Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination requires graduates to complete 675 hours of legal work under the guidance of experienced attorneys. This aligns with the typical study hours for bar exam preparation, as noted by Willamette University Law Dean Brian Gallini, who assisted with developing the proposal. Additionally, candidates must submit a minimum of eight samples of legal writing, lead at least two initial client interviews or counseling sessions, and oversee two negotiation processes, among other requirements. Participants will be graded by the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners, and those with qualifying scores will be admitted to the state bar. 

This new licensing pathway aims to offer more flexibility to aspiring lawyers, particularly in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, Oregon’s Alternatives to the Exam (ATE) Task Force submitted its recommendations to the Oregon Supreme Court, proposing two new paths to licensure—the Oregon Experiential Pathway and the Supervised Practice Pathway. These recommendations were heavily informed by IAALS’ Building a Better Bar research, including our twelve building blocks of minimum competence. 

Oregon’s new Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination also aligns with our ten recommendations for evidence-based lawyer licensing, including the requirement that candidates for licensure should complete coursework to enhance their abilities in client interaction and negotiation, and engage in closely supervised clinical or externship work.

In recognition of its pioneering efforts and significant contribution to licensure reform, the Oregon ATE Task Force will receive IAALS’ Rebuilding Justice Award at our annual gala event in April 2024. The Task Force’s leadership and innovative approach have been pivotal in catalyzing the national conversation around licensure reform. By integrating diverse perspectives from across the state, the Task Force has not only addressed the limitations of the current bar exam but also paved the way for a more equitable and accessible path to legal licensure.

In becoming the first state to pioneer an alternative pathway to attorney licensing, Oregon is not only transforming the future for aspiring lawyers—but also setting a powerful example for others. By prioritizing flexibility, accessibility, and evidence-based approaches, this initiative meets the evolving needs of the legal profession. Oregon’s commitment to innovation and improvement signals a promising future for a more diverse, adaptable, and client-focused legal community. 

Dive Deeper