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California Bar

California Should Adopt Uniform Bar Exam, Law School Dean Says

One week after New York announced that it was adopting the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law, made a public statement charging California to do the same. New York was the 16th state to adopt the standardized bar exam and is the largest state, population-wise, to do so. California’s bar exam is considered by many to be the toughest in the country. In 2014, more than 13,000 people took the exam and only 47 percent passed.
In an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times Chemerinsky, writes, “The current system, under which each state sets its own requirements and won’t recognize out-of-state credentials, is inefficient, burdensome and, frankly, unjustifiable.” Chemerinsky acknowledges that each state has “unique” laws, but that the basic principles are the same and “lawyers can learn the quirky specifics as they go.”
He goes on, “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.”
“It’s crazy that a lawyer from, say, Oregon, who has practiced law for decades can’t move across the border into California and pick up where he left off. He’d first have to take the California bar — a significant disincentive given the state’s notoriously low pass rate (it was less than 50% last July). There’s no good reason to make him jump through that hoop, which leads me to believe that so many states retain a distinct bar exam simply because they want to reduce competition.”
The dean also acknowledges that states, like New York, can place their own requirements in addition to the UBE. New York is requiring completion of a daylong training specific to New York law in addition to passing the UBE. States can also set their standards of what “passing” is.
Chemerinsky closes by using the national board of medical examiners as an example. Physicians do not have to take tests as they cross state borders to be able to practice medicine. When New York’s Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman made the announcement for New York last week, he said his state would be the first large “domino.” If California is the next domino, one has to figure many other states would jump on the UBE as well.
Source: Wall Street Journal and L.A. Times