What Does the Bar Stand for in Bar Exam or Bar Association?

When you talk about lawyers, you may hear the term “the bar” being thrown around a lot. Lawyers have to pass bar exams and may join bar associations, and if they abuse their position, they may be disbarred. But what does “bar” stand for, and why do we use this term so much?

Contrary to popular belief, “bar” is not an acronym, and there’s a very simple explanation about why we use this term in relation to lawyers. Read on to discover the origins of the legal term “bar.”

There Really Is a Bar

Although many people think the “bar” in bar exam is an acronym, it does refer to an actual bar. 

In a traditional courtroom, a wooden rail separates the audience from the participants – the judge, jury, and lawyers. This is the literal bar that we refer to when we discuss someone “being admitted to the bar.”

Becoming a lawyer meant being allowed to step across the bar as a professional participant in the courtroom procedure. Passing your legal exams would literally allow you to “pass the bar.” And so the term came to mean that you had fulfilled the appropriate requirements to become a lawyer.

English Origins

This use of the word “bar” got its use in England, where lawyers are still called “barristers” for exactly the same reason. 

English courtrooms actually came up with the layout where the bar separates the audience from the practitioners. It was brought to America during colonization and has stuck around since.

The English also tend to use the term “bar” to refer to a wider variety of legal matters. They’ll refer to people and proceedings in court as “the bar,” much like we refer to “the bench” when talking about judges. Barristers get called to the bar to defend their clients in British courts.

Migration to America

As with many other things, English customs migrated to America during the colonial era. 

Several of the founding fathers were born in the British Isles, and many of their forefathers had migrated to America from England decades earlier. So it comes as no surprise that, when it came time to set up our courtrooms, these men modeled the design after what they knew from across the pond.

Over time, the meaning of the word “bar” changed to focus less on the physical courtroom layout and more on the overall legal profession. 

Today, we use the phrase “bar exam” meaning the tests a lawyer must pass to practice law. Members of “bar associations” join professional organizations to further their careers.

How to Become Part of the Bar Today

Today, becoming “part of the bar” typically involves passing your “bar exams” – the test that allows lawyers to become licensed to practice. 

In the United States, each state has its own bar, and you have to pass the bar exam in that state in order to practice there. 

Today’s lawyers may have to meet a variety of other requirements in order to gain admittance to their state’s bar. This can include meeting specific age requirements (usually 18 years old), upholding specific moral standards, and graduating from an accredited law school. Members may also have to engage in continuing education in order to keep their license current and maintain their acceptance into the bar.

Find the Right Lawyer for Your Case

Despite popular belief, the bar acronym explanation is a myth – the bar refers to a literal physical bar in the courtroom. Today, getting admitted to the bar means gaining the privilege of practicing law in the United States. Lawyers pass bar exams and join bar associations all in order to work on the other side of that physical divider we still see in our courtrooms today.

If you need legal representation, you need to talk to someone on the right side of the bar. Our St. Petersburg personal injury lawyers have more than twenty-five years of experience fighting for our clients in court. Schedule a free consultation with us today to discuss the details of your case.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm – Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

Contact a St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer at Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys and schedule a free case review today.

Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

700 7th Ave N Suite B
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 933-0015