Arizona's 17,500 lawyers are not going to have to worry about new competition from those who want to practice without bothering with three years of law school.

Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, late Monday dropped his proposal to allow anyone who passes the Bar exam to hang out a shingle and begin soliciting business. The move came after several people testified against his measure, SB 1415, in the Judiciary Committee.

Potentially more significant, Murphy found opposition among Republican colleagues on the panel who happen to be lawyers -- and happen to have gone to law school.

Current requirements imposed by the Arizona Supreme Court require someone to both graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association but also pass a written exam. Murphy said there is no reason that someone who proves competence by passing the test should first have to go through the effort -- and spend the money -- on law school.

"There are a lot of people who frankly don't need the seat time,'' he said.

But Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, said his colleague may be missing the point.

"I've always thought that being able to memorize the black-letter law of different areas of the legal practice isn't necessarily indicative of being a good attorney,'' said Driggs, a 1993 law school graduate of Arizona State University. He said the key is being able to know where to get the information -- and know how it applies.

John Phelps, executive director of the State Bar of Arizona, said only a "handful'' of states allow individuals to take the entrance exam without going to law school. But he said that, with the exception of Wyoming, there is at least a requirement for some kind of training or apprenticeship.

But Phelps sidestepped Murphy's question of whether the Bar would be willing to support his legislation if it were amended to include that kind of training rather than just taking the test.

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