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Arizona Supreme Court strikes a blow for freedom

November 4, 2014

When I moved to Arizona seven years ago, two things happened related to my legal practice. First, I was invited to teach a continuing legal education class for Arizona lawyers on property rights law. Second, I was told I could not practice law until I passed the Arizona bar exam. Good enough to teach, but not good enough to do.

So I had to take six weeks away from my constitutional law practice to demonstrate proficiency in areas of law (like wills and contracts) that I wouldn’t practice in a million years, and take an examination in many ways identical to the one I passed 20 years earlier in California. There was little on the exam unique to Arizona.

For many years, Arizona was one of the few states that refused to recognize attorney credentials from other states. Even a U.S. Supreme Court justice couldn’t move and practice here without taking the exam. I suspect there was a bit of protectionism going on, especially with the specter of lawyers retiring to Arizona and practicing part-time.

In September, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted the barrier, in response to a petition from a lawyer whose practice, as so many do, spans state boundaries. Now, lawyers in good standing in other states may practice here if they take a course on Arizona law. The new rule is wise and judicious.

I know what you’re thinking: the last thing Arizona needs is more lawyers. But greater supply should increase quality and decrease prices. And now if you have a legal matter that involves more than one state, you won’t have to hire multiple lawyers.

I still lament the wasted time and sheer boredom entailed in studying for the Arizona bar exam. But if you need a will, I know how to do one, sort of.

Clint Bolick is the director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

Learn more:

Arizona Republic: Arizona Supreme Court justices approve lawyer-reciprocity rule

Supreme Court of Arizona: Arizona Bar Exam Information



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