HB 115

A tipster wrote in about HB 115 and how it will harm Georgia’s legal community, but having read the law, I am a bit befuddled by why it has even been proposed.

Basically, as it is now, the Supreme Court sets the standards by which an individual can become a lawyer in Georgia. Under this proposed legislation, that will still be the case, but a person can take the bar exam if they move in from out of state and attended a law school in another state that was not accredited, but still allowed the person to practice law in that state.

In essences, some states have law schools that do not meet the rigorous accreditation process of the American Bar Assocation, but nonetheless a student graduating from such a school can practice law in the particular state where the law school was located (I think John Marshall Law School used to be like this).

There has been a perceived (and I think proven) bias among accreditation boards like the ABA against religiously affiliated universities and law schools. As a result, some bright folks are graduating from these institutions and cannot become lawyers because the ABA didn’t recognize the institution.

I think, frankly, if someone can pass the bar exam (hell people. It is hell on earth) then we might as well call them a lawyer and let them practice. Might. As. Well.

I remain befuddled, however, because I don’t think there is really a need to move this forward, though I thought this was tried before and it basically came down to a few friends of some conservative legislators in the evangelical movement who had had this problem and wanted it fixed. That might now be the case.

I would note as well that in Georgia, if you are a lawyer in a state that will let a Georgia lawyer become a lawyer of that state without taking the bar exam, Georgia will reciprocate with lawyers from that state. Frankly, if the legislature wanted to really improve things and open the door for lawyers in Georgia, they could expand the number of states we do that with instead of doing something like HB 115.


  1. stephaniemills21 says:

    If i remember correctly, Rep. Erhart is the one who put this bill forward before so that an aide on his staff could be a member of the Bar in GA. She had received her JD from a college in california via correspondence class. I also seem to recall that her name was Larios, as in Larios v. Cox.

  2. StevePerkins says:

    Interesting catch, Erick. I’m a student at John Marshall, which as you stated used to be unaccredited. The school sought and earned ABA accreditation after the Georgia Supreme Court changed the standards, blocking graduates of non-ABA schools from sitting for the bar exam anymore.

    If I’m reading this correctly, HB 115 rolls back the Supreme Court’s changes and goes a step further… even under the old rules you couldn’t sit for the bar exam if you graduated from an *out of state* non-ABA school.

    The argument of ABA accreditation being biased against religious schools is fairly weak (even Jerry Falwell’s pseudo-school has provisional accreditation now). Also, despite the fact that those at the very top enjoy lucrative incomes, the profession overall is fairly crowded and saturated already with just the accredited graduates.

    I’m not really sure if this bill is supposed to be symbolic slap at Democrat-supporting trial lawyers, or if it’s a political favor for somebody with a nephew who went to Samford University in Alabama. Either way, it doesn’t seem like a particularly great idea. Also, the bill as written *could* be interpreted to allow graduates from out-of-state unaccredited schools to practice in Georgia, yet block graduates of IN-STATE schools that are established in the future. That doesn’t make any sense at all.

  3. Honestly if Sara Larios wants to be a lawyer so bad, why doesn’t she just move to a state that will let her be one?

    When she picked the school she picked, she knew she wouldn’t be admitted to the Georgia Bar. Republicans are always telling us that actions have consequences.

    Well, time to pony up.

  4. memberg says:

    First off, Samford is ABA approved.

    That aside, I suppose I don’t mind letting someone without a law degree sit for the bar. I just have a few conditions.

    1) They should have to take the MPRE (ethics) portion on same day as the “regular” bar exam (multi-state and Georgia). Most law students take the MPRE months earlier, but if someone off the street wants to leap-frog law school, they shouldn’t get that advantage.

    2) Their tests must be graded against the full pool of candidates.

    3) If (read: When) they fail, the cannot try again until the earlier of 3 years or graduation from law school.

    4) Each time a non-law school grad retakes the test before getting a law degree, the fee should be multiplied by the number of the attempt (e.g. 2nd try is 2x, 3rd try is 3x, etc.).

  5. ColinATL says:

    Erick, please document the ABA’s supposed bias against religiously affiliated schools. You can’t just make an unsupported statement like that.

    Many religious law schools ARE accredited by the ABA (e.g., Catholic, Liberty, etc) despite their apparent bias. A conservative friend of mine went to Catholic University’s School of Law in Washington, DC, and he said that many of the classes were ridiculously biased and un-educational as a result.

    But I don’t think that the ABA’s accreditation procedures give weight to the religious affiliation or supposed bias of the law school. They primarily look at the degrees of the professors, the bar passage rates of the students, and so forth. I’m certain that there’s an on-site evaluation, but any decent school can pass that.

  6. JRM2016 says:

    Several things–

    1)–To: StevePerkins– Cumberland School of Law at Samford University is an ABA Accredited School with a long and great history of turning out top notch lawyers though as a University of Alabama School of Law graduate I should point out we have done ok too. Anyway, don’t take shots talking about schools when you obviously know nothing about it.

    2)–HB 115 is ridiculous. Georgia adopted the “mirror” rule sometime ago that if every state adopted we would have universal reciprocity. Go get California to change their rules.

    3)–As a lawyer who has a multijurisdictional practice and has had to sit for two bar exams, I believe it is imperative that not only should you have to pass the exam but yes you should have a degree from an accredited school. If that is not the law, then we shouldn’t require a law degree at all as I could open the JRM2016 School of Law and issue degrees after payment of a fee and allow people to meet the educational requirement of sitting for the bar exam.

    3)–The Bar has a great record of being self-regulated. We don’t need the State Government coming in and playing havoc with a system that has worked for decades.

  7. StevePerkins says:

    Sorry memberg and JRM2016, I confused Cumberland with the Birmingham School of Law five miles away. Don’t worry… 9 times out of 10 when I mention having gone to Georgia Southwestern State University for undergrad, people ask me how I enjoyed Statesboro!

  8. atlantaman says:

    This has more to do about job protection, less competition and higher hourly rates than anything else. Professionals do it all the time, once they are in they love to raise the standards to keep competition down.

    Accounts do it by making the CPA tougher, Doctors, lawyers, etc..

  9. StevePerkins says:

    … except that the bill wouldn’t “raise standards”, it would lower them. In fact, it would lower *below* where they were before they were tightened.

    I think stephaniemills21’s speculation is most likely to be correct. If this were really about striking a blow at trial lawyers, or political infighting between the legislature and state Supreme Court, there would be far more noise and publicity behind it. The fact that it was slipped in quietly with no fanfare suggests that it’s more likely a political favor for somebody.

  10. shep1975 says:

    The fact that Steve and I sit one row and 6 seats from each other means, even if Georgia had a lawyer shortage…excuse me while I roll around on the floor laughing for a minute (anything to take my mind off of the motion to dismiss i’m SUPPOSED to be writing)…we’re working hard to fill the gap.

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