Marino’s Legal News: What Will The Bar Exam Look Like Five Years From Now?

As anyone planning to take the July 2021 Bar Exam is likely aware, most states will be administering the test in a remote online format. The expectation is that once the COVID-19 pandemic abates, the bar exam will go back to its traditional, in-person format. But the situation has caused speculation as well as opinions from many corners of the legal world about whether the exam should remain largely as it is or be changed to an entirely different type of licensing test.

As the pandemic grew more serious last year, groups of law graduates in different states went public, demanding that the bar exam be cancelled and asking for emergency diploma privilege that allow law graduates to become licensed without first passing the bar exam. While these efforts received a good amount of publicity, only 5 jurisdictions actually allowed diploma privilege for recent law graduates in lieu of the bar exam, and none of these have renewed those programs past last year.

Instead, the focus has shifted to making reforms to the bar exam itself. The National Conference of Bar Examiners just made a proposal of changes to be made to the bar exam over the next 5 years. The proposal, among other ideas, suggests doing away with the current exam’s 3 separate components—the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). Instead, the exam would become more integrated and ask examinees to use legal fact patterns to provide a variety of answer types which including multiple choice, short answers and essay responses. The revised exam will place more emphasis on testing legal skills and will require less memorization of the law, although it would still remain a closed book test.

The proposal also suggests eliminating the currently-tested subjects of family law, estates and trusts, the UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) and conflict of laws, and to add subjects such as investigation and evaluation, client counseling and advising, negotiation and dispute resolution, and client relationship and management to the legal areas tested. The exam would be administered completely by computer, but examinees would still be required to sit for the exam at a designated live location and would not be permitted to take the test remotely. You can read more about the proposed changes here.

The National Conference is set to further study and implement some or all of these changes over the next 5 years. So it is possible that the law gradates taking the bar exam 5 years from now will be taking a test that looks somewhat different than the exam being offered this July.

This is certainly not the first time significant changes have been made to the bar exam. It was just a few years ago that Federal Civil Procedure was finally added to the MBE section of the exam.

At Marino, we have been teaching students to pass the bar exam since 1946. Our primary goal is to help law school graduates pass the bar exam and realize their dreams of becoming successful and skilled attorneys. If you have any questions or are concerned about passing this summer’s bar exam, just call us at (866) 788-8589 or email us at [email protected]