For many 2Ls, the bar exam is still on the distant horizon, and for 1Ls it’s likely not even on the radar. But for 3Ls, the bar—at least the New York bar exam—is a mere nine months away. If that much is a surprise to you, it might be because you’re just not a calendar person. What might come as more of a surprise is that the New York Bar Exam doesn’t exist anymore. Or at least not in a way that matters to current students.
Last year, the New York Court of Appeals “adopted the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) that New York adopt the UBE effective July 2016.” This means that the last “New York Bar Exam” will be given this February. The Court of Appeals also adopted a new requirement that those seeking to practice in New York “be required to complete an online course on New York law and take and pass an online examination on New York law” before being admitted to practice in the state. So, what is the Uniform Bar Examination and why should we care?
Surprisingly, even though these new tests will be implemented for the July 2016 bar exam (the one most current 3Ls and future students will take), the fact that we will be taking a totally different exam this summer has not been widely publicized. The New York State Board of Law Examiners just recently updated its website to reflect the new exam information. I did a little extra digging, and here are a few things you need to know about the Uniform Bar Exam:
- Who is behind the UBE? The Uniform Bar Examination is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which is the same organization that administers the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (students who want to practice in New York must also pass the MPRE to be admitted to the New York bar).
- What is the UBE? As of September 2015, 17 states have adopted the UBE. The UBE has three components: (1) Multistate Bar Examination (a series of multiple-choice questions); (2) Multistate Essay Examination (a series of essay questions); and (3) Multistate Performance Test.
- Why is the UBE important? The biggest benefit of the UBE is probably that it allows you to practice in many other states without taking a different bar exam. According to the NCBE’s website, “Examinees who take the UBE earn a portable score that can be transferred to seek admission in other UBE jurisdictions.” These other states (in addition to New York) currently include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. And Vermont has also proposed adopting the UBE.
As the New York Times reported, New York is “the largest state so far” to adopt the UBE, or what the Times called “a national credential for lawyers.” This is important because many people—including the state’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman ’68—are now speculating that New York’s move to adopt the UBE will prompt other states to do so as well. This shift to a uniform exam could alter the legal market significantly by allowing lawyers more mobility and flexibility when working in or considering job opportunities in other states.
If you’re a big-city law student with a small-town heart who’s always dreamed of representing farmers in the Midwest, well, this just might be the sign you were waiting for.