Cover of Shaping the Bar by Joan W. Howarth
Shaping the Bar
The Future of Attorney Licensing
Joan W. Howarth


December 2022
240 pages.

Hardcover now $24.50 (30% off)

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503613560
Ebook ISBN: 9781503633698

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The comprehensive source on attorney licensing and how to reform it.

In Shaping the Bar, Joan Howarth describes how the twin gatekeepers of the legal profession—law schools and licensers—are failing the public. Attorney licensing should be laser-focused on readiness to practice law with the minimum competence of a new attorney. According to Howarth, requirements today are both too difficult and too easy. Amid the crisis in unmet legal services, record numbers of law school graduates—disproportionately people of color—are failing bar exams that are not meaningful tests of competence to practice. At the same time, after seven years of higher education, hundreds of thousands of dollars of law school debt, two months of cramming legal rules, and success on a bar exam, a candidate can be licensed to practice law without ever having been in a law office or even seen a lawyer with a client.

Howarth makes the case that the licensing rituals familiar to generations of lawyers—unfocused law degrees and obsolete bar exams—are protecting members of the profession more than the public. Beyond explaining the failures of the current system, this book presents the latest research on competent lawyering and examples of better approaches. This book presents the path forward by means of licensing changes to protect the public while building an inclusive, diverse, competent, ethical profession.

Thoughtful and engaging, Shaping the Bar is both an authoritative account of attorney licensing and a pragmatic handbook for overdue equitable reform of a powerful profession.

About the author

Joan W. Howarth is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Dean Emerita of the Michigan State University College of Law. She also serves as a member of the Nevada Board of Bar Examiners.

"Howarth's vision is to establish a new approach that protects potential legal clients and promotes inclusion and diversity in the profession."

Trial Magazine