Monday, June 29, 2015

Thanks, but no thanks, and oh, why even bother. Wyoming rolls over on the UBE.

Two years I wrote this item about the unfortunate move by the Wyoming State Bar adopting the Uniform Bar Exam:
Lex Anteinternet: Wyoming Adopts the Uniform Bar Exam, and why that'...:     Wyoming Supreme Court in  Cheyenne. Students of legal minutia know that the phrase "to pass the bar", or "to be ca...
I made some predictions at that time, including that the net effect of the UBE would be to increasingly pass off Wyoming's legal work to lawyers in big cities in neighboring states, and that has become true.  Now both defense and plaintiff's work, in the civil arena, has become something in which out of state firms are increasingly involved in.  So litigants who have cases in Wyoming are increasingly, in some instances, using non Wyoming lawyers, and in some instances defendants are being defended by non Wyoming lawyers.  It isn't that these attorneys are better than Wyoming's lawyers.  They aren't.  It's that they are from large cities in some instances.  In my view, Wyoming is being hurt by this as lawyers who know Wyoming's law and live in the state aren't handling as much of this work as they should.

When the UBE was adopted by the Wyoming Supreme Court, a Wyoming component was added in the form of a CLE that new admittees had to take. The concept was that, in the course of a day, they'd be exposed to Wyoming's law. That was always a fairly absurd concept, as it takes years to pick up the nuances of Wyoming's law, and no CLE with topics ripping by in fifteen minute increments is going to do that.

In saying that, I should note that I was part of the process.  While I'm opposed to the UBE and particularly opposed to the reciprocity aspects of it, my very opposition to it ended up causing me to be asked to write for one of the CLE topics.  I agreed to do it, after being approached, as I felt I had little choice.  Having been asked to do it, I could hardly decline, particularly as those who asked me were well aware of my opposition to the entire process.

Due to that, in the most recent issue of the state bar's publication I see that I, along with the other authors of written material for the UBE, have been thanked.  The reason is that the Bar Examiners have now concluded that the CLE requirement isn't worthwhile, so we're just going to admit new members without a state component, other than an expanded introductory pathways requirement.  Those who wasted their time on the written CLE requirement programs, such as myself, have had the futility of their efforts publicly applauded.

Well. . ., thanks but no thanks.  The entire Uniform Bar Exam process is misbegotten and ought to be dumped, and it was always a poorly through.   All this is serving to do is to export Wyoming's legal work to the detriment of Wyomingites.  It's not too late to salvage the situation, but it will become so as fewer and fewer Wyoming lawyers handle substantial cases.  I can easily envision a near future when even the judges will be out of state lawyers who apply for those positions are deemed to be the only ones experienced enough in the topics to handle the tasks.

The Board of Law Examiners, by the way, dumped the CLE requirement as it was ineffective.  That should have been self evident from the get go, as it was quite evident to me, as one of the drafters of a section of it, that the time element of it was so short as to be nonsensical.  There was no way that anyone was going to learn much in that sort of CLE, and there was no test as a part of it.  It was just something a person had to endure.

In its place, the BLE is going to expand the Pathways to Professionalism, a mandatory professionalism course which will be expanded.  Well, quite frankly, programs on professionalism do not  enhance professionalism one iota.

In making this decision, according to the article I read, the BLE was conceding that the law of most states is all the same, and a person can just look it up on the Internet.  Oh really. Well, that's baloney, and anyone who has had the experience of out of state lawyers practicing in a complicated Wyoming case knows better.  Of course, if we persist in this path, it will become very similar to Colorado's law, as that's where the majority of out of state "Wyoming" practitioners live.

Indeed, recently I was in a case which had one such practitioner on the defense side and two out of state lawyers on the plaintiff's side.  The lawyer on the defense side had a practice heavily based on out of state work, and he commented that "he couldn't believe" that Wyoming allowed such simple CLE admission and that he'd think that Wyoming lawyers would resent it.  So, something that's pretty self evident to out of state lawyers practicing in the state apparently isn't to those who are supposed to be manning the gate here.

This entire situation has been a terrible shame.  The concept that Wyoming's bar exam was somehow fatally flawed was poorly thought out, and the Wyoming Supreme Court really bought a line of baloney in adopting the UBE sales pitch.  There's no excuse for it, and the situation should be reversed before the damage, which will take years to undo, becomes any worse.  It would be simple to repair.  Simply require that any applicant to the Wyoming bar take a test on Wyoming's law.

Wyoming has a lot of really good lawyers, still.  And we have a law school, still.  We can craft a Wyoming component and test those who wish to practice here on Wyoming's law.  We should.

If we don't, our current pathway will have a logical development.  Within a decade nearly all serious litigation will be handled by out of state lawyers, and Wyoming's lawyers will reduce in number and be reduced to minor matters and criminal matters.  The judges will start to come from out of state too, and our law will start to resemble Colorado's, whether we want it to or not. The law school of which so many Wyoming lawyers are graduates, will go by the end of the next decade, as the uniqueness of Wyoming's law will decline, and there will be no reason to have an institution that serves no state specific purpose.

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