Primus: Rule to offer bar exam alternative could help staffing

By on Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

UMATILLA COUNTY – There will be a way to become a licensed attorney in Oregon without having to pass the bar exam starting in May 2024. The program is called the Supervised Practice Portfolio Examination. Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said that his office is chronically understaffed and having more attorneys from which to choose could help with that problem.

“It’s something that we will try to take advantage of,” he said. “We’re still going to have to find professionals that want to relocate to Eastern Oregon.”

Currently, his office only has five attorneys, while it’s funded to have 10. Primus said it’s hard to recall a time during his 12 years in the office when it was fully staffed. He added that is a problem throughout rural Eastern Oregon.

“Adding individuals to the pool of applicants would hopefully help rural Oregon with bringing in individuals to fill our needs,” he said.

The state is experiencing a shortage of defense attorneys and is attempting to address that. Meanwhile, a quick look at the public defender agencies in Umatilla County shows there are far more than the five prosecuting attorneys in Primus’ office.

As reported earlier, the law school graduate would commit to 675 hours of supervision under a licensed attorney. That’s estimated to be the time the average law school grad spends preparing for the bar exam.