The Bar Exam in Germany

With many American bar exam passage rates hovering between 75 and 85%, we can at least be glad that we can take the exam as many times as we need to in order to pass. True, career chances in the best law firms might be destroyed by repeated bar exam failure (although most firms allow you to retake the bar if you fail it the first time, it seems like failing it once could still threaten your chances at partnership).

I just read that in Germany, if you fail twice, you are prohibited by law from taking the bar exam a third time. That means that if you fail twice, you have no chance of becoming a lawyer, judge, or prosecutor–ever. This is harsh and even necessitates a social service to help such applicants cope with the idea that between four and seven years of university study in the field of law has been a waste. This is an important service considering that 31% of applicants who took the Staatsexamen for the first time this year in Bavaria failed.

7 Responses to The Bar Exam in Germany

  1. Anonymous says:

    OUCH! That sounds very harsh.


  2. Kristine says:

    I think Germans (maybe Europeans in general) are more OK with the idea that not everyone is capable of doing everything he or she might want to than we Americans are. There are lots of times one can fail, and fail seriously, without a shot at redemption (Gymnasium entrance exams, Abitur, etc.). There’s less discomfort with meritocracy than here. Probably the German system could use a little more room for late-bloomers, procrastinators, and poor test-takers; Americans probably could do with a few more opportunities to fail and have to reevaluate.

  3. john f. says:

    Kristine, you are right about that characteristic of European society, specifically German society. But I don’t think that it is such a good thing. One the one hand, it is true that it forces professionalism and seriousness of station; but on the other hand, it can tend to keep people down, resulting in a more stratified society (which, of course, they have evened out by adopting a soziale Marktwirtschaft, or social market economy). I am glad that America retains such flexibility in the professions. I do see your point that Americans could perhaps benefit from experiencing real consequences from their choices (though I thought it an interesting view coming from you!). Anyway, since I find myself in the position of waiting for bar exam results, I am glad to be involved in the American system, although I do have long-term plans for some kind of German or European legal work. We’ll see.

  4. Kristine says:

    “(though I thought it an interesting view coming from you!)”

    What’s that supposed to mean?

  5. john f. says:

    Kristine, it was just meant in jest and a poke a liberals. (Even though I would have guessed you as relatively moderate, it seems that you have often defined yourself as liberal, so that is it meant.) It was an unfair poke at liberals based on the inacurrate assumption that liberals cater to victim-mentality (like I said, it was only meant in jest).

  6. Kristine says:

    That’s what I thought–just wanted to see *you* say that the stereotype is inaccurate 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    I passed so the point is moot!

    (It will become relevant again if and when I end up taking the German State Exams.) 

    Posted by john fowles–>

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