Will California Make Changes to its Bar Exam?

A state panel has recommended that California continue to use a bar exam to license attorneys but should develop its own distinct test.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the Bar Exam — a joint effort between the California Supreme Court and the State Bar — has voted to circulate draft recommendations that include the state designing its own licensing test instead of using the new national bar exam being developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners .
The public will have 30 days to weigh in on the recommendations.
“We’ve been given a difficult task,” said Commission Chair Joshua Perttula, noting that members have differing opinions of how California should move forward on attorney licensure.
The 19-member commission failed to reach a consensus on establishing an alternative pathway to licensure that does not involve a bar exam, such as requiring law graduates to practice under the supervision of an experienced lawyer or requiring specific coursework in law school.
Commissioners said they were worried that privileged law graduates would have an easier time finding a supervising attorney and that graduates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds would be unable to afford a lengthy supervision requirement.
Developing its own bar exam would give California control over the testing format and the content of the exam, which is now partially controlled by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
The current California exam includes the Multistate Bar Exam — the 200 multiple-choice question section of the bar exam designed by the National Conference — alongside an essay question section and performance test designed by the California Bar.
The National Conference’s new bar exam, dubbed the NextGen Bar Exam, is planned for a 2026i introduction, although it is expected to take several additional years before states begin to actually use it to replace the existing Uniform Bar Exam. But adopting the NextGen test would leave California without the ability to decide whether to give the bar exam remotely or in person, and would not test state-specific content, the commission concluded.
You can read more about this issue here.

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