On the legal beat: Supreme Court makes a bar-exam exception

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2012 - 7:41 PM

For only the second time in history, the Minnesota Supreme Court will allow an attorney to practice law without taking the state bar exam.

Citing her education and experience as a lawyer and her need to work in Minnesota, the high court agreed that JaneAnne Murray should be allowed to bypass a rule requiring her to take the bar exam because she did not graduate from an accredited U.S. law school. Murray, a native of Ireland, earned her law degree there.

Murray was allowed to take the New York State Bar Exam and practiced there for more than 20 years as a trial attorney until her husband took a job at the University of Minnesota in 2011. Murray petitioned the Supreme Court for a waiver of the educational requirements.

The court reasoned that because of her experience, Murray may be admitted to the bar. If she had to take the exam, she could not be licensed to practice in the state until next May.

"Murray credibly contends that the nature of her practice -- criminal defense -- makes it impracticable for her to maintain a practice in New York while living in Minnesota with her husband and two school-aged children," Justice Paul Anderson wrote.

Justice Christopher Dietzen and Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said that although they agreed Murray should be allowed the opportunity to practice in Minnesota, she should have to sit for the bar exam.

"Because Murray has merely shown inconvenience, she should be treated like any other applicant," Dietzen wrote.

The high court waived the rules only once before, for Milton Schober, a 1955 Louisiana law school grad who worked for the federal government before he moved to Minnesota in 1986 to run ITT Consumer Financial Corp. The court noted that he had practiced law for 33 years and was admitted to the bar in other jurisdictions.

The Murray decision follows a ruling last year that allows graduates of non-accredited schools to take the bar exam if they are allowed to practice in another state.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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