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What does BAR stand for (as in the BAR exam)?

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is some debate as to the origin of the term "Bar" in reference to the Bar Exam and Association. Some people point to the phrase "British Accreditation Regency," but there is little supporting evidence for this claim.

One of the earliest times the term "bar" was used in reference to lawyers was in the Inns Court in England. A railing divided the room into two portions, and on one side of the room were accredited lawyers while opposite of them were students and those who wished to become lawyers. So, the phrase came about that people were "admitted to the bar" because they passed through the railing, thus becoming lawyers. There is some supporting evidence for this claim, but once again, it is tenuous.

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nfaulk6 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is some fallacy that “bar” in this context stands for “British Accreditation Regency”; however, there is no foundation for this claim.

In order to become a practicing attorney in the United States, one must have passed his or her bar exam and be “admitted to the bar.” Because of the common law history for all US States (except for Louisiana and the US territory of Puerto Rico), legal methods and processes are typically a result of English courts, and contemporary jurisprudence often looks to old English cases when deciding modern points of law.   

Thus, in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the old King’s or Queen’s Bench plays a prominent role in understanding the etiology of the word “bar.” In courtrooms of old—and today—there is a physical barrier, or “bar” between the area where the public is permitted and the portion that is limited to attorneys, their clients, and witnesses who are called to testify. Lawyers who have been “admitted to the bar” have the requisite access to go to the “other” side of the “bar,” or the restricted areas of the courtroom.

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