Why More States Should Not Jump on the Uniform Bar Exam Bandwagon

12 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2015 Last revised: 2 Jul 2015

See all articles by Ben Bratman

Ben Bratman

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: June 16, 2015


With New York’s recent adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam, the standardized licensing test now has taken hold in 16 states and is gaining steam. Many believe it can and should spread to all 50 states.

Not so fast.

To be sure, national adoption of the UBE would produce benefits in the form of greater interstate license portability for new lawyers, but at an unacceptable cost. At a dynamic time of change in the legal profession and legal education, the UBE sustains a flawed and stale bar exam. In several states yet to adopt it, the UBE would actually increase the exam’s dubious focus on knowledge of legal content over execution of legal skills. In addition, if the UBE spreads throughout the country, the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the UBE’s author and promoter, will accrue even more power over bar examinations, and states will be left with less. States have historically played an important role in bar testing innovations, and the National Conference is largely content with the current construct of the bar exam. Hence, the shift in power makes even more daunting the already difficult challenge of achieving meaningful bar exam reform.

Moreover, there is another way to achieve the worthy aim of interstate license portability without enduring the various drawbacks of the UBE. We already have a uniform exam, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the multiple-choice test administered as roughly half the bar exam in 49 states. States could allow all applicants who previously achieved a passing score on the MBE on any state’s bar exam to seek admission without the necessity of taking a bar exam again. Minnesota, North Dakota and the District of Columbia already do it, and so can any other state.

Keywords: bar exam, bar exam reform, performance test, legal education, UBE, Uniform Bar Exam, NCBE, National Conference of Bar Examiners, MBE, Multistate Bar Examination, bar admissions, licensing tests, licensing examinations, MPT, Multistate Performance Test, MEE, and Multistate Essay Examination

Suggested Citation

Bratman, Ben, Why More States Should Not Jump on the Uniform Bar Exam Bandwagon (June 16, 2015). JD Journal, June 17, 2015; U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2619358

Ben Bratman (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-383-7671 (Phone)
412-648-2648 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.pitt.edu/people/ben-bratman

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