City Bar Supports Adoption of Uniform Bar Examination

In testimony today before the Advisory Committee on the Uniform Bar Exam, the New York City Bar Association stated its support of Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s recommendation to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), effective July 2016. “We believe that adoption of the UBE is an important reform that will significantly enhance opportunities for new lawyers to find employment wherever it is available,” states the testimony as submitted on behalf of the City Bar by Mark C. Morril, Chair of the Association’s Council on the Profession. “We believe that the UBE is correctly focused on testing the competence of the candidate on fundamental legal principles and lawyering skills that are important to entry-level practice. We also believe that adoption of the UBE by New York State will motivate other states to follow suit, thereby further advancing the goal of a more nationwide standard for admission to the bar and increased employment mobility for lawyers.” The City Bar agrees with the Board of Law Examiners that the New York exam should continue to have a New York component. Recognizing that moving to the UBE is a major step for New York State, the City Bar stresses the need to be alert for unforeseen consequences and to monitor its implementation in the state by compiling rigorous performance data and reviewing it annually. The City Bar recommends a formal review after three years. One area of concern for the City Bar is regarding the impact of standardized testing on historically disadvantage groups. “While no data suggest that the UBE will have a disparate impact on such groups, New York State must maintain its commitment to ensure that the bar licensing process advances the goal of setting reasonable competency standards without impeding ongoing efforts to increase diversity in the profession,” states the testimony. As to timing of implementation, “[w]e believe that a July 2016 adoption date provides a reasonable time frame for law schools to make any adjustments to their curriculum they deem advisable and for potential test takers to set their expectations,” the testimony states. “We firmly believe that there should be no further delay beyond 2016 in the implementation of this important reform.” The City Bar has a long history of involvement and concern with the New York State Bar Exam. Most recently, in 2012, a task force set up by then-City Bar President Carey Dunne and chaired by Morril found that state-specific bar exams significantly limited lawyer mobility at a time when the practice of law is increasingly national and global. “We believe that adoption of the UBE, with its portable scores, will significantly advance the important interest of lawyer mobility in the nationwide marketplace,” states today’s testimony. “The City Bar believes that the benefits of the UBE will increase as more states follow New York and students can seek out employment opportunities nationwide with confidence that success on the New York State Bar Exam will provide most of what is needed to become licensed in another state.  Conversely, adoption of the UBE also will enable New York employers to more readily draw on a talent pool of new lawyers who have taken the exam elsewhere and can become licensed in New York by successfully completing a readily accessible New York module.” The testimony may be read here: