Friday, April 22, 2016

New Jersey Adopts Uniform Bar Exam

 239 Shares / Apr 15, 2016 at 12:04 PM
Gym, Tan, Uniform Bar Exam!
Gym, Tan, Uniform Bar Exam!
In October 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced that it would form an ad-hoc exploratory committee to weigh in on whether it would be appropriate to do away with its own state bar exam in favor of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). After all, New York had recently made the switch to the UBE, and it was only a matter of time before New Jersey did the same.

Twenty-one jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., have now adopted the UBE, and as of yesterday, New Jersey became the twenty-second jurisdiction to do so. A New Jersey Courts press release explains that the policy decision “address[es] real needs within the legal community and enable[s] New Jersey to adapt to changing times while steadfastly protecting the public.” Specifically, New Jersey’s adoption of the UBE will “benefit new attorneys graduating into an unsteady economic climate.” From the release:

Following the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Uniform Bar Examination, the Court has determined to adopt the UBE as a replacement for New Jersey’s existing bar examination format, beginning with the February 2017 administration of the exam. …

Applicants who take the UBE earn a portable score that can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions including New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C., among others, for a set period of time for the purpose of applying for admission in those other jurisdictions. The Court found substantial value in the UBE’s score portability, which is expected to benefit not only New Jersey applicants and their families, by allowing greater mobility among recent law graduates, but also the public, through the provision of increased legal resources in currently under-served areas. Score portability also will help alleviate the considerable financial strain facing applicants who currently sit for multiple bar examinations.

With law school indebtedness reaching a zenith point in recent years, kudos to New Jersey for realizing that transitioning to the UBE was the right choice. Cash-strapped law school graduates already faced “considerable financial strain,” and having them pay and sit for multiple bar examinations was only adding to their debt loads. Score portability is the UBE’s greatest perk, hands down, and now we’re waiting on other states to adopt it.

But what about lawyers who had already taken state-specific bar exams and don’t have a UBE score to transfer to another jurisdiction? Those attorneys will have to rely upon other states to adopt admission by motion rules, like New Jersey just did, as “the legal market increasingly demands flexibility and multijurisdictional practice.” It’s likely that states without admission by motion rules already in place will adopt them in conjunction with their decision to start using the UBE in place of their own bar exams.

Is your state considering adopting the Uniform Bar Exam? If not, it probably should; given the many states choosing in rapid succession to make the switch to this exam model, it seems this may be the way of the future for lawyer licensing.

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