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Deans and Scholars Pressure California to Adopt Uniform Bar Exam

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 29, 2015 10:03 AM

The Uniform Bar Exam is about to get more, well, uniform. The UBE, which provides one test and one score but portability to the 16 different states what accept it, was recently adopted by New York. The Empire State's 15,000-some bar examinees will sit for the UBE for the first time next summer.

Those New Yorkers, along with Alaskans, Coloradans, and Alabamans, may be getting some company from the Best Coast -- if legal academics have their say. Law professors from throughout California are currently pushing for the state to adopt the UBE, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One Test to Rule Them All

The promise of the Uniform Bar Exam is simple. Take one test, get one score, and qualify for potential admission throughout the country. The exam was first adopted by North Dakota and Missouri in 2011 and has spread to a total of 16 states since then. Many of those states are in the Midwest, with smaller legal communities and smaller markets, but the addition of New York drastically increased the UBE's reach.

Plenty of California legal scholars think the Bear Republic should follow suit. The state bar exam, predicated on the idea that lawyers will be generalists, doesn't comport with today's market, which requires much more specialization, according to Pepperdine law professor Derek Muller.

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But wait -- what about those important state laws? After all, isn't that what separates Rochester from San Diego? Not really, according to those who teach the law. The general principles of the law are largely similar across state lines, according to Erwin Chemerinsky, legal celebrity and dean of UC Irvine's law school. Contracts, common law torts, scienter requirements -- there may be slightly different wrinkles to the law in the different states, but the basic principles remain the same.

Plus, under the UBE, states can set their own thresholds for "passing," as they do with the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and the Multistate Bar Examination questions. California could retain its infamous third day of the exam to test state-specific legal issues.

Of course, Californians shouldn't throw out their bar prep materials just yet. There's still plenty of interest in keeping the state's market closed to outsiders and maintaining what is considered the most difficult bar exam in the country. The California Bar Association isn't currently considering changing its method, though perhaps continued pressure from the state's law schools will sway the bar in time.

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