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What does Bar stand for in the Bar Exam, or Bar Association?

Gilbert, SC |

I have two friends who say that because it stands for British Accreditation Regency it means that all lawyers, even in the US, pledge allegiance to Britain and are under the rule of the Queen. Please clarify.

Attorney Answers 2


  1. What your friends say is just silly. However, the legal systems of all states within the United States, except Louisiana (and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico), are "common law" legal systems, meaning their origins and methods come originally from the courts of England. But "allegiance to Britain" and "under the rule of the Queen"? No way.

    Common law courts may sometimes look for guidance to old English cases when deciding modern controversies. States may have "reception statutes" which provide that the law of the state will "receive" the common law decisions of England into their own law. Many cases decided in the eighteenth and nineteenth century cite old King's Bench or Queen's Bench cases from England. American courts still cite old English cases in their opinions, but it is much rarer nowadays than a century ago.

    "Bar" is not an abbreviation. In courtrooms there is a physical barrier, a "bar," between the portion of the courtroom in which the public is permitted and the portion of the courtroom limited to lawyers and their clients. A lawyer who has been "admitted to the bar" can go on the other side of the bar, into the restricted section of the courtroom.

    Not legal advice, just general information.


  2. Your friends have been misinformed.

    The easiest explanation comes from Black's Law Dictionary. The term "bar" actually refers to the literal rail that is in traditional court rooms that separate the front area where the judges, court personnel and the lawyers conduct business from the back area people can sit and observe the process or wait for the hearing. The term "bar" in "Bar Association" or "bar exam" refers being able to move freely in the area where judges, lawyers and court workers all do their work. The Bar Exam is the test one must take to be allowed to work in front of the rail or bar that separates the courtroom. The Bar Association is simply an association of those allowed to work in front of the bar. Keep in mind that any person may choose to represent themselves and be allowed past the "bar" without taking the exam; however, I would strongly discourage doing so.

    It is true that most US laws and statutes are based upon British Common Law; however, it makes sense considering that the US was a colony governed by those laws before we fought for and obtained our independence from Brittan. Imagine the chaos if our founding father had to completely re-write every law that held society together after the revolution simply so they would not be considered British. I imagine that your friends are very fond of private property rights and laws against trespass on their property as am I. Please inform them that these are some of the British laws that were adopted by the US after the revolution. This does not mean that we are still subjects of the queen.

    Your friends have bought into conspiracy theorist notion that the courts are "private corporate courts" that are owned by British corporations. While completely false, this is a commonly used strategy of individuals attempting to avoid paying income taxes. If you or your friends really want to understand the constitution and the duties of the branches of government, including the courts, I recommend reading "Constitutional Law, Principals and Policies" by Erwin Chemerinsky. It's a nice light summer read that explains to some degree how the US got to where it is today based on court rulings and opinions.

    Finally, I am licensed to practice law in three states. Not once was it requested or was I required to swear allegiance to Britain or her queen or some British corporation. I am posting the attorney's oath that is used for the State of Maine. Please note that the oath specifically mentions the Constitution of the United States and includes a standard of conduct for attorneys. I personally find it inspiring and I strive to conduct my practice accordingly.

    "I do swear that I will support the constitution of the United States of America and the State of Maine, so long as I shall continue to be a citizen thereof.

    I do solemnly swear, that I do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in Court, and if I know of an intention to commit any, I will give knowledge thereof to the Justices of the court, or some of them, that it may be prevented: I will not, wittingly or willingly, promote or sue any false, groundless or unlawful suit, nor give aid or consent to the same; I will delay no man for lucre or malice, but I will conduct myself, in the office of an Attorney within the Courts, according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, and with all good fidelity, as well as to the Courts, as my clients. So help me God."

    The legal information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Your receipt of the information on this website is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a contract for representation by Fetters Law Firm, PLLC. Ryan F. Fetters is licensed to practice law only in the States of Maine, Tennessee & West Virgina.