An earlier version contained an incorrect spelling Knudson School of Law. The error has been corrected.

VERMILLION, S.D. (KCAU) — The South Dakota State Legislature is considering removing the bar exam for aspiring attorneys.

House Bill 1076 would allow graduates from the University of South Dakota (USD) Knudson School of Law to practice law in the state without passing a bar exam. Local attorneys said the state legislature should not lower its standards just to add more lawyers in South Dakota.

Current law school graduates must pass a bar exam to practice law in South Dakota. Alexis Tracy is the state’s attorney in Clay County. She passed the bar exam in 2006.

“There’s other components prior to getting licensed to practice law as well, having to do with good character, moral fitness, those types of things, but it is that minimum standard in order to practice law in the state of South Dakota,” Tracy said.

House Bill 1076 would require law school graduates to meet other criteria after graduation to become lawyers, such as completing one thousand hours of legal practice under the supervision of an attorney and pass a multi-state professional responsibility exam. Tracy said while the bar exam has changed over the years, the importance of that test remains the same.

“The public deserves a level of competency from those they are trusting to provide them legal advice and representation and bar admission requirements provide that,” she said.

Neil Fulton is the dean of the USD Knudson School of Law. He said more than 80 percent of students from the law school’s graduating class of 2021 have passed the bar exam, and working with those who don’t pass the first time is more beneficial than removing the exam entirely.

“I think in some instances maybe working on something that’s a combined effort between the bar examiners and the law school is a viable possibility,” he said. “Just getting rid of the bar exam isn’t the answer though.”

Fulton said the South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice has created a task force to evaluate alternative pathways to the bar exam and Fulton said legislators should defer to the findings of that group.