The State Board of Law Examiners was created by statute to assist the Supreme Court in its constitutional responsibility to regulate the admission to practice. At the request of the Board, the 2001 legislature changed the name of the Board from State Bar Board to State Board of Law Examiners. The requested change was to help clear up the confusion between the Board and the State Bar Association, and to more accurately reflect the primary purpose of the Board.
In 2001, Board members were Rebecca S. Thiem of the Bismarck firm of Zuger, Kirmis & Smith; Mark L. Stenehjem of the Williston firm of Winkjer, McKennett, Stenehjem, Reierson & Forsberg; and Paul F. Richard of MeritCare Health System in Fargo.
On July 24 and 25, the Board administered a two-day bar examination. The examination consisted of the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), a written three-hour examination consisting of two ninety-minute tasks that examine fundamental lawyering skills, including, problem solving, legal analysis and reasoning, factual analysis, communication, organization and management of a legal task, and recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas; the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), a written three-hour examination consisting of six questions from pre-selected topic areas; and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), an objective six-hour multiple choice exam.
Due to the low number of applicants over the past few years, and, because administration of the state bar exam in February is becoming increasingly impractical economically and for grading purposes, the Board discontinued the February bar exam.
Passage rates for the 2001 examination:
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Admission to practice in North Dakota can be based on the results of the written bar examination; five years of admission and at least four years of practice in another jurisdiction; or, within two years of application, achieving a score of 150 on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and admission in another jurisdiction. Additionally, every applicant for admission must be at least 18 years old, of good moral character, fit to practice law, and been awarded a juris doctor or equivalent degree from a law school, approved or provisionally approved, for accreditation by the ABA.
The Character and Fitness Committee assists the Board in investigating applicants' character, fitness, and moral qualifications. In 2001, members of the Committee were: Charles S. Miller, Malcolm H. Brown, Luella Dunn, Reverend Robert Nordvall, and Dr. Al Samuelson, all of Bismarck.
Of those 47 individuals admitted in 2001, 30 were by bar examination; 8 by achieving the 150 MBE score and admission in another state; and 9 by having the requisite years of practice in another state.
In 2001, the Board, in its licensing capacity, issued licenses to 1,842 lawyers and judges, 380, or 21%, of whom were women.
As a part of its licensing and admission responsibilities, the Board monitors the pro hac vice admission of attorneys who are not licensed in North Dakota. During 2001, the Board received 168 motions under N.D.R.Ct. 11.1 regarding nonresident attorneys, and collected $12,000 in fees. The fees were forwarded to the State Bar Association of North Dakota to help fund the attorney disciplinary system.
As the year ends, the multijurisdictional practice of law is under study. The Board has representatives on the Task Force created by the State Bar Association, and is monitoring how other states handle the various issues raised as a result of the mobility of our society, and the questions regarding the portability of legal skills and abilities across state lines.