The vast majority of recent law school graduates support adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination to license new attorneys, according to a new Kaplan Bar Review survey of 1,000 law school graduates from the class of 2016.
Ninety-one percent of the law graduates surveyed were in favor of more states adopting the UBE, a licensing exam that would allow attorneys to practice law across multiple states, rather than taking state-specific bar exams. This is up from 80% in favor when Kaplan first surveyed law graduates on the issue in 2013. Of those who support the adoption, 89% say it will provide more job portability, 38% say the exam is easier to study for, and 16% say the exam itself is easier.
There’s just one problem: At the moment, only 26 U.S. jurisdictions have adopted the exam. Among those that do not accept the UBE are four of the five biggest states: California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois.
NOT AN EASIER TEST; POSSIBLY AN EASIER JOB SEARCH
“While the job market for new attorneys has improved significantly in recent years, it remains tight, and law school graduates recognize that the UBE offers greater portability and flexibility in terms of career opportunities,” says Tammi Rice, vice president and general manager of Kaplan Bar Review. “The UBE is not necessarily an easier exam than state-specific bar exams, but it may make the job search a bit easier.”
Rice adds that after adopting the UBE, bar passage rates were boosted in some some states, like New York and Washington, D.C., but actually fell in others, like New Mexico. “There are a lot of variables for why a state’s bar passage rate may rise or fall after the UBE is adopted,” she says. “In some states, the UBE is actually harder than the state-specfic bar exam was, but in some states it’s not as challenging.”
The UBE has been adopted in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
STATE-SPECIFIC BAR EXAMS LIKELY TO PERSIST
In October the Illinois Board of Admission to the Bar opened the issue for debate within the state’s legal community. The board hosted three hearings and accepted public comment through Dec. 5. Though no decision has been made, the board is currently reviewing the comments and testimonies, after which it will send a final recommendation to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Regardless of the Illinois decision — and despite what recent graduates seem to overwhelmingly want — Rice doesn’t expect the UBE to be adopted nationally.
“Given unique issues that states face, we believe many will hold on to their state-specific bar exams,” she says.