In the United States, the authority to regulate the legal profession belongs to individual jurisdictions; each U.S. state or territory sets its own rules and makes its own decisions about legal licensure. For  licensure examinations, most jurisdictions use one or more of the bar exam components produced by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), a nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. Thirty-six jurisdictions have adopted NCBE’s Uniform Bar Exam, which is comprised of three NCBE exam components: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and Multistate Essay Examination (MEE).  The UBE is a uniformly administered, graded, and scored bar examination that results in a portable score.

At NCBE, we are proud of the high quality, validity, and reliability of our exams, which help jurisdictions protect the public by ensuring that only competent candidates are licensed to practice law.  The legal profession in the U.S. is changing rapidly, and we realize the importance of assuring the bar exam reflects those changes. To that end, in 2018 NCBE appointed a Testing Task Force charged with undertaking a three-year study to ensure that the bar examination continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent entry-level legal practice in a changing profession.

The Task Force’s study is currently in the second of three phases. In the first phase, extensive feedback was solicited in a series of listening sessions with stakeholders from across the profession—bar admission administrators, legal educators, and practicing attorneys and judges. (A report summarizing these sessions is available on the Task Force’s website.) Currently, the Task Force is conducting a nationwide practice analysis survey of lawyers as phase two of the process. This survey will provide valuable and comprehensive information about the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that new lawyers must have to practice effectively and ethically. The conclusions drawn from the first two phases of the study will  help inform the study’s final phase, which will consider options for designing the bar exam of the future.

The work being done by the Testing Task Force is important and timely; we are proud of this study and excited to learn all we can from it. Please visit the NCBE Testing Task Force website and sign up to receive updates as this historic study progresses.

Article provided by ICLR member, Judith A. Gundersen, President, National Conference of Bar Examiners

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