As New York considers whether to join 14 other states in adopting the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) those in favor of one national licensing exam are giddy with the thought that if New York pulls the trigger then other states are more likely to follow. There is a tremendous amount of rhetoric about the UBE – what it does and does not accomplish. There are multiple layers of issues to sort through. What follows are some thoughts to get the comments going on this forum.
Some reasons to support a national exam:
*Students can take one bar exam in any state and then, depending on their score, be eligible to apply for admission in other UBE states
*It will be easier for law firms to recruit new attorneys who are immediately eligible to practice in multiple jurisdictions
Some reasons to be cautious about a national exam:
*What is on the exam will dictate what is taught in many (not necessarily all) law schools
*Accountability may be an issue, especially given what has been criticized as a less than acceptable NCBE answer to the July 2014 MBE results
*States lose control over the content of what will be tested, relinquishing authority to a national body
*Some states, such as NY, have indicated that the UBE is not enough and additional requirements for admission do or will exist. The NCBE lists the additional requirements that exist in current UBE states (see chart 10) – is this uniform?
*The UBE states do not allow admission by score transfer forever – there are time limits. So, for example, a student takes and passes the test in Montana today, and they have between 18 months and 5 years, depending on the state, to apply to transfer. See chart 10
Some questions to be answered:
*Will it cost more for applicants to take the UBE than what it currently costs (see chart 7) in their given state?
*If more states join the UBE, will or should the leadership composition of the NCBE change?
Possible Next Step:
*If the Council of Chief Judges , the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the ABA believe that a national licensing exam is in the best interests of the profession, then a national study commission should be created that includes representative of these groups and the AALS, minority bars, law students and others who can organize into committees and conduct the requisite studies and data collection, as well as negotiate a national exam that is acceptable to most (all may be pushing it)