The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) has been sweeping across the country in recent years, and with the addition of New York, it now seems poised to become the dominant exam. This is a good thing for law students. Here are three reasons why:
You Are Now Free to Move About the Country
The UBE is currently administered in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. If you pass the bar in one of these twenty jurisdictions, all you have to do to be licensed in another one is fill out a few forms, transfer your score, and pay the fee (some jurisdictions may have a couple additional administrative steps). The only catch is that a passing score in one jurisdiction is not necessarily a passing score in another. Check the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s (NCBE) website and the state bar association’s website for the score that you need to pass in that jurisdiction.
By contrast, it used to be really difficult for lawyers to move across state lines (and still is in jurisdictions that haven’t adopted the UBE). The majority of jurisdictions (but not all!) allow for the admission “on motion” of attorneys who have been practicing for a certain number of years in other states. Here’s a handy map explaining this, but be sure to check the state bar association’s website for the most up-to-date information. For example, New York currently limits admission on motion to attorneys from one of thirty-eight jurisdictions and requires those attorneys to have practiced for five of the past seven years. Illinois, on the other hand, requires attorneys to have practiced for three years and allows attorneys from any jurisdiction to apply. Also be aware that each state bar association has its own definition of “practice.”
What’s worse is that some states still require that attorneys from other jurisdictions take the bar exam again. California’s bar exam is three-days long, but attorneys are permitted to take a special two-day “attorney’s exam.” (If you ask me, the general bar exam is much easier than the attorney’s exam, but don’t take my word for it: check out the pass rates.)
You Know This Stuff
The UBE tests federal law and general legal principles that simultaneously apply everywhere and nowhere. In other words, the UBE sticks primarily to what you learned in law school. The following subjects may appear on the essay or multiple choice portions of the UBE: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. With the exception of Evidence and Criminal Procedure, every one of these courses is part of the standard 1L curriculum taught around the country. Additionally, the essay portion may include questions from other less-common subjects, including: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Trusts and Estates, and Secured Transactions. These subjects can take some time to learn, but the good news is that the UBE doesn’t test them in much detail. Compared to the odd subjects that appear on some other states’ bar exams, the handful of additional rules that you have to learn for the UBE are a breeze.
By contrast, non-UBE states often test state-specific law, and for the most part, that’s in addition to a lot of the generally applicable law tested on the UBE. For example, Texas tests various additional subjects, such as Texas civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, and oil and gas law. Louisiana tests the Louisiana Civil Code. And before New York adopted the UBE beginning with the July 2016 exam, its test used to include fifty infamous state-specific multiple choice questions.
Better Study Materials
With more students takings the same exam, it should be easier for bar preparation companies to develop the expertise necessary to create better study materials. When I used a commercial prep course for the Oregon Bar Exam, I remember that the UBE lectures were high-quality productions for the most part, while the lectures for the state-specific subjects weren’t very helpful at all. What’s worse, the feedback on my essays was essentially worthless because no grader bothered to check whether my essays were over the Oregon word limit. Even though I paid top dollar for this course, nowhere did anyone even bother to tell me that there was a word limit on the Oregon Bar Exam. I had to figure that out for myself. The whole experience gave me the impression that my prep course didn’t know the first thing about the exam I was taking. If you’re taking the UBE, then you won’t have the problems that I had preparing for the Oregon Bar Exam. Since there are thousands of students preparing for a given administration of the UBE, you’ll benefit from high-quality study materials and hundreds of UBE experts around the country.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- What are Bar Exam Graders are Really Looking For
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Are You Wasting Time Studying for the Bar Exam
- What are You Waiting For? It’s Time to Study for the Bar Exam
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