Book Review of Shaping the Bar: The Future of Attorney Licensing

Publication Title

Journal of Legal Education

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022


In Shaping the Bar: The Future of Attorney Licensing, Professor Joan Howarth issues a clarion call to the academy, the legal community, and the judiciary to reform how we license lawyers in the United States. In this book Howarth identifies the current crisis in law licensing, the history of racism that created this crisis, and the tools available to address it. Shaping the Bar challenges our entrenched notions of professional identity, and it forces us to confront vulnerabilities in attorney self-regulation. It does so in a manner that will stir even those not immersed in the current debate about law licensing. This review highlights Howarth’s explanation of how the attorney licensing system fails to protect the public by failing to assess the skills and abilities new lawyers need to competently represent clients while simultaneously unjustifiably excluding people of color and those without financial resources. The review summarizes her data-based arguments that explain how we have developed and perpetuated a system that fails the public and systematically disadvantages particular groups, and her eminently workable suggestions for how to change the system. It discusses how Howarth connects the law licensing process to legal education, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between the two, and noting that as legal educators, we must accept responsibility for our part in creating, and hopefully now dismantling, this system.


External Links


Recommended Citation

Marsha Griggs & Andrea A. Curcio, Book Review of Shaping the Bar: The Future of Attorney Licensing, 71 J. of Leg. Educ. 543 (2022).





First Page


Last Page