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Arizona lowers minimum score to pass state bar exam

The Arizona Supreme Court has lowered the minimum passing score for the state bar exam to 270.

Retroactive to this summer, aspiring attorneys who were three points short of the old standard will be eligible for a law license.

Arizona’s bar exam takes two days to complete and is offered twice a year.

Court officials say the new minimum passing score puts Arizona more in-line with standards in other states, but still at the top of the national range.

Phoenix attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado said bar exam results mostly tell who is good at taking tests.

“You’re supposed to regurgitate random facts about the law that you’re never going to use to advocate for your client. So it just seems to me not to be a good indicator of who is going to be a great attorney and who is not.”

People who took the Arizona bar exam in July are scheduled to learn if they passed on Oct. 13.

Maldonado likes that a lower minimum passing score on the bar exam gives more people a chance to become a lawyer.

But he also thinks it’s time to rethink how people should earn a license to practice law, and being mentored is a better way to learn what an attorney really does than passing a test. 

“It’s not the same as a bar examination when I go into the court of law and I argue a case in front of a judge," Maldonado said.

He added that Arizona could copy Wisconsin and eliminate the bar exam for some by accepting a law degree from a state university as qualification for a license.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.