The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has recently made an announcement that will significantly impact aspiring lawyers. The current Uniform Bar Exam’s discontinuation date has been extended from July 2027 to February 2028. This decision implies that the existing exam and the upcoming “NextGen Bar Exam” will be available concurrently for a period of two years.
- The “NextGen Bar Exam” is set to commence in July 2026, with an aim to balance the skills and knowledge essential in litigation and transactional legal practice.
- The NCBE’s announcement means that both the current bar exam, including its segments—the Multistate Bar Examination, the Multistate Essay Examination, and the Multistate Performance Test—will remain accessible to jurisdictions until the February 2028 administration.
- Previously, there were plans to retire the existing exam in July 2027.
Reinstating Family Law to the NextGen Bar Exam
On top of this development, the NCBE has also revealed that family law will be reintroduced to the list of foundational concepts and principles in the NextGen bar exam starting in 2028. Judith Gundersen, president and CEO of the NCBE, highlighted the significant number of family law cases in appellate dockets and trial courts, emphasizing the necessity of this inclusion. This addition ensures lawyers, especially those in solo or small practices in rural areas, are well-prepared for family law cases early in their careers. By 2028, family law will become a foundational concept, with test-takers expected to have a comprehensive understanding and answer questions based on their knowledge of the topic.
What The Experts Say:
Naomi Cahn, professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, commended this development, noting that over 3 million family law cases are filed in state courts each year, making it a fundamental aspect of practicing law.
Modernization of Bar Exams: The Path Ahead
The legal profession is known for its resistance to change. However, the announcement of the NextGen Bar Exam indicates a paradigm shift towards evaluating problem-solving abilities over simple memorization. With this recent change in the timeline, state bar examiners are now faced with a significant decision—whether to opt for the NextGen Bar Exam or adhere to state-specific assessments. This, according to Amit Schlesinger of Kaplan, will likely lead to a reshuffling of priorities in law schools regarding curriculum content and delivery. While the evolving nature of the bar exam introduces empowerment, it simultaneously adds complexity to the already demanding process.
Challenges and Opportunities for Law Schools
Law schools, being the bedrock of legal education, will find themselves at a crucial juncture. As the bar examination landscape undergoes transformation, so too must the curricula and teaching methodologies. Traditional models of education might need to be re-evaluated to incorporate more practical, problem-solving-based learning. This will help ensure that students are not just memorizing laws but understanding their application in real-world scenarios.
Adapting to New Curriculum Needs:
- Law schools must proactively engage with the NCBE and other regulatory bodies to gain clarity on exam expectations and design courses accordingly.
- Increased emphasis on subjects like family law will require faculty expansion or training to cater to the updated curriculum.
- Incorporating practical legal scenarios in coursework can bridge the gap between theory and practice, prepping students for the NextGen Bar Exam’s format.
- Conflicts of laws, trusts, estates, and secured transactions will transition from being mandatory knowledge to being incorporated in questions offering research materials to test-takers.
- Despite concerns, trusts, and estates will not be categorized under foundational concepts and principles.
- Alston & Bird shifted a discrimination lawsuit to a federal court in Georgia, involving a former employee’s allegations of being wrongly terminated for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine due to her religious beliefs and disability status.
- Australian law firms like King & Wood Mallesons and Herbert Smith Freehills are considering adopting “US-style ‘eat what you kill’” partner pay models, moving away from the traditional “lockstep” model based on seniority.
In conclusion, while the recent announcements from the NCBE signify a noteworthy transformation in the legal examination landscape, both students and law schools must stay adaptable and informed to navigate these changes successfully, ensuring that the next generation of legal professionals is not only well-prepared but also equipped to handle the dynamic nature of modern legal practice.