Why California Needs to Adopt the Universal Bar Exam

As it currently stands, the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is recognized by 16 states, but unfortunately, California is not one of them. As a California-based law firm, we want our attorneys to be able to practice their profession freely—something that is currently limited by the arcane, state-specific exams.

The UBE is designed to test knowledge and skills that every lawyer should be able to demonstrate prior to becoming licensed to practice law. Coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the exam is composed of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). It is uniformly administered, graded and scored by user jurisdictions which results in a portable score that can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions. A hotly-debated topic, the adoption of the UBE raises several questions, such as: How will states test the nuances in their respective state laws? Will prospective lawyers who pass it be less qualified than those who pass the traditional state bar?

While it presents what some view as “cons,” the eradication of the current state-specific bar exams would prove an asset to providing greater mobility across the country for practicing attorneys. A national UBE would eliminate disparity in weighting and scoring of each section and would also alleviate testing of state law nuances and distinctions. Portable scores afford attorneys and graduating law students more flexibility to shop around for jobs during times when the job market is tough.

The NCBE is promoting a UBE because it believes that a law student that has demonstrated an acceptable knowledge of the law, has obtained a valuable skill set that should be accepted in other jurisdictions. And, frankly, we don’t disagree.

Backing up the NCBE and our stance on adopting the UBE is a Wall Street Journal article we recently shared on our firm’s Facebook page (eliciting a strong response from our followers). In the article, Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law, says, “Forcing students to memorize detailed, state-specific rules, most of which they will never need to know and which they will promptly forget, does not ensure competence […] And because the legal market isn’t exactly robust at the moment, it seems rather cruel to make lawyers restrict their job searches to the states in which they’ve passed the bar exam.” This especially handicaps third-year law students who have to register for the bar exam in June, and have not yet secured a job.

The law is the backbone of our society and lawyers should be able to practice it freely. Our current system limits a lawyers’ potential, by restricting them to specific locations, often times making it difficult to find jobs. We need to recognize and celebrate those that put in the hard work to become lawyers, and adopting a UBE would do just that, by allowing them to seek employment and practice law all across the United States.

A map of states that have adopted the UBE, the most recent being New York


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