Professor and Director of Academic Support and Bar Passage Marsha Griggs (Washburn) has a new article on SSRN, Building a Better Bar Exam. It is a well-written critique of the Uniform Bar Exam. From the SSRN summary:
In the wake of declining bar passage rates and limited placement options for law grads, a new bar exam has emerged: the UBE. Drawn to an allusive promise of portability, 36 U.S. jurisdictions have adopted the UBE. I predict that in a few years the UBE will be administered in all states and U.S. territories. The UBE has snowballed from an idea into the primary gateway for entry into the practice of law. But the UBE is not a panacea that will solve the bar passage problems that U.S. law schools face. Whether or not to adopt a uniform exam is no longer the question. Now that the UBE has firmly taken root, the question to be answered is what can be done to make sure that the UBE does less harm than good?
This paper will, in four parts, examine the meteoric rise and spread of the UBE and the potential costs of its quick adoption. Part one will survey the gradual move away from state law exams to the jurisdictionally neutral UBE. Part two will identify correlations between recent changes to the multistate exams and a stark national decline in bar passage rates. Part three will address the limitations of the UBE, including the misleading promise of score portability and the consequences of forum shopping. Part four will propose additional measures that can coexist with the UBE to counterbalance its limitations to make a better bar exam for our students and the clients they will serve.
The UBE, while well-intentioned, has had unintended consequences. In the Empire State, the New York State Bar Association—a voluntary membership organization, not a licensing or regulatory entity—is studying the impact of our state’s move to the UBE a few years ago. As Patricia Salkin (Provost, Graduate and Professional Divisions, Touro) and I wrote about in the New York Law Journal, there was a precipitous decline in New York Practice enrollment statewide after New York’s “unique” civil procedure code, the Civil Practice Law and Rules, was no longer tested on the bar exam. Students voted with their feet and flocked to other courses. The NYSBA Task Force will attempt to assess whether there has been a decrease in lawyer competency following the adoption of the UBE.
In the meantime, Professor Griggs’ article makes a nice addition to the conversation around various aspects of the UBE.