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Brazil: Federal Supreme Courts Rules on Bar Exam

(Nov. 3, 2011) On October 26, 2011, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court ruled that passage of the Brazilian Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil) exam is a necessary condition for the practice of law. The decision was unanimous and must be applied by all judges and tribunals in the country.

The decision was made in response to an action brought by a law school graduate who argued that his law degree was sufficient to qualify him for the practice of law and that the exam was disrespectful to someone who had obtained a law degree and was thereby qualified to work. In addition, the graduate's attorney argued that the Brazilian Bar Association uses the exam only to collect money and to restrict the market, purposes he considers abusive, unconstitutional, and designed to produce mass exam failures.

In the opinion of Minister Marco Aurélio Mello, the bar exam is the way to select the professionals who are qualified to work and to prevent professionals who are not qualified from damaging the society. The exam serves the purpose, he stated, of assessing the minimum conditions for the practice of law, with a view to providing the community with reasonably qualified professionals. While a good lawyer contributes to the achievement of justice, a bad lawyer brings embarrassment to the whole society, not only to his client, said the Minister. (Carolina Brígido, STF Mantém Exame da OAB para Advogados, O GLOBO (Oct. 26, 2010).)