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Proposals to Adopt the Uniform Bar Exam Are Met With Apprehension

Discussions are brewing in New York regarding the adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), but the feedback isn’t all positive. The UBE is currently used in 14 states throughout the country and allows students who pass to practice law in other states, among additional benefits. By adopting the UBE, New York would abandon the state’s existing bar exam.

Many who were involved in the recent panel organized by the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals voiced concerns that the UBE would affect minority students and make it difficult to actually prepare for the test. An article in the New York Law Journal shared that apprehension first surfaced in November 2014, thus putting the UBE on hold for the time being in New York.

In order for the UBE to become the standard, New York’s high court has to approve all aspects of the exam. The panel was arranged to give both sides a chance to actively express their opinions.
How does the UBE impact each student’s “practical training”?

Recent years have seen a strong shift in New York law schools to increase practical training for each student. Rather than merely enforcing book knowledge, law professors are encouraging skills that are necessary outside of the classroom. Much of the concern surrounding the UBE questioned whether it would help or hinder this educational change.

The Dean at Brooklyn Law School asked whether written tests are indeed the most effective way to assess the real-world skills students gain while in school. He pushed for a fairer system, one that would benefit students who are unable to afford prep material for each test.

Similarly, a law professor in New York said that there is a constant challenge to find the balance between bar passage preparation and furthering the practical skills necessary for life after law school. Would the UBE only increase this existing tension?

A widespread concern from the panel is that using the UBE would only undermine the specific legal knowledge one needs to practice in each state. One attorney said that to practice law in New York, a “precise knowledge” of state legislature is required.

So for the time being, it is unclear whether the UBE will truly be the future of law schools in New York. Law school educators and even students are requesting that if the UBE does become the standard, it should not be enforced until current students can take the exam they’ve spent time preparing for. To administer the UBE any sooner would put the majority of students at a disadvantage.

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