This July, the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) will be held in New York for the first time. It’s important to find out what this means for New Yorkers, and those in other UBE states.
The Uniform Bar Exam was first developed in 2011 by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Rather than testing examinees on mostly state-specific information, the UBE takes a different approach, evaluating their knowledge on universal legal principles.
What is the UBE comprised of?
Three separate tests make up the UBE, and they’re administered throughout two days. This includes two Multistate Performance Tests, six Multistate Essay Exam questions, and one Multistate Bar Exam, which consists of 200 multiple-choice questions.
Yes. In May 2015 it was announced that the February 2016 New York State Bar Exam was going to be the last of its kind and a new UBE would be the exam going forward. New York’s decision followed the actions of a long list of states, including Missouri, which was the first to adopt the UBE for its February 2011 administration. Next in line came Colorado (February 2012), Arizona (July 2012), Utah (February 2013), and New Hampshire (February 2014).
Even though New York decided to adopt the UBE less than a year ago, other jurisdictions have moved more quickly since then to make the switch. Kansas, New Mexico and Iowa, for example, just held the UBE in their states for the first time this past February. When New York conducts the exam on July 26 and 27 of this year, Washington, D.C. and Vermont will administer their first UBEs as well. South Carolina and New Jersey will administer the UBE beginning in February 2017.
Does this change matter?
The switch from state-specific to general may not necessarily make much of a difference in how law graduates study for the UBE, because they’re going to be reviewing most of the same material they would have covered in their states’ previous exams, yet overall, the ever-growing adoptions of the Uniform Bar Exam is considered a game changer.
In New York, 70 percent of the UBE covers the same information as the previous New York exam. The information pertaining to a specific jurisdiction will still need to be reviewed, because several states also require lawyers to pass other courses or tests along with the UBE in order to meet the criteria for admission to the bar.
Here in The Empire State, examinees must now pass the UBE, as well as the New York Law Course and the New York Law Exam, perform 50 hours of pro bono service, and meet character and fitness requirements.
What’s going to be different is the UBE’s score portability.
This new flexibility will make it significantly easier to practice law in more than one jurisdiction, because rather than taking three different bar exams for three jurisdictions, only one is necessary. Someone can take the bar in one UBE state and transfer their score to another state, as long as it also administers the UBE. A passing score, however, may vary, depending on the jurisdiction.
The highest score on the UBE is 400. The passing score in New York is 266, but some jurisdictions require different results. For instance, 260 is considered passing in Alabama, but not here. So, failing the UBE in one state doesn’t mean you failed them all. Exams would only have to be retaken if test-takers didn’t get the required score for the jurisdiction where they wanted to practice law.
But it doesn’t matter where you take the UBE.
You can transfer your score, as long as the jurisdiction where you sat for the exam and the jurisdiction you plan to transfer it to both administer the UBE. If the jurisdictions differ, then you have to adapt accordingly.
As July approaches, law graduates in New York will be preparing for the newly reformatted bar. By then, maybe more states will have decided to adopt the UBE as well. The future is moving in that direction.
Now is the time to prepare for the UBE!