New York is evaluating whether the state should adopt the Uniform Bar Exam, and back in November extended the commentary period through March 1, 2015. Now, with the comment period and final public hearing ending in just a few short weeks, should New York adopt this new standard?

A Comparison of The New York and Uniform Bar Exams

Currently, New York has two portions of the bar examination that test on state specific laws, they include 5 essay and 50 multiple choice questions specific to the state of New York. Each essay question tests more than one subject.

New York  has already adopted part of the UBE, by including the MBE and 1 Multistate Performance Test, which is designed to test fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation. The multistate portion of the exam accounts for 50% of the applicants total score.

The Uniform Bar Exam (currently adopted in full by 15 jurisdictions), contains six 30-minute essay questions, two 90-minute performance tests, and the MBE. Each jurisdiction that adopts the UBE has the option of also requiring that candidates complete jurisdiction-specific requirements, such as an educational component, or additional test.

The proposal by the New York State Board of Law Examiners (“SBLE”) would adopt the UBE in its entirety. Applicants would also be required to take a separate 50-question New York specific multiple choice test in either December or late Spring of each year. Each student would need to correctly answer a minimum of 30 questions.

Proponents of this new proposal believe that it would bring applicants better job opportunities by allowing the transfer of scores to different states.  Opponents of the proposal believe, that the UBE and NY Law Exam would be insufficient to cover the vast amount of topics specific to New York.

Population & Passing Analysis

So far, 16 states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam. In 2013, those sixteen states 8,438 applicants sat for the February and July bar exams. Compared to New York, which had 15,846 take the bar exam in 2013.


For the last three years, New York has had more than 10-times the number of applicants as the next closest state, while consistently averaging 13% lower than the UBE pass rate.

What Would an Increase Look Like?

If New York adopts the Uniform Bar Exam, there could be an additional 1,276 attorneys per year. This does not take into account the increased portability of lawyers across America. As of 2013, New York has 166,317 active lawyers.  Since the UBE’s first adoption in 2011, 5,216 individuals have passed in states with higher pass rates than New York’s proposed 266 standard. These people would be immediately eligible for sitting for the proposed New York Lawyers Examination.

The dashboard below shows all the states that have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, and number of attorneys admitted to practice since its adoption.


This number will rise in the coming years, and could have a significant impact on the New York legal job market as additional states begin to offer the UBE.

Interestingly, many of the states in the dashboard above, did not see a marked increase in the overall population after adopting the Uniform Bar Exam.

Check here for part two, covering how adopting the Uniform Bar Exam will affect Associates and others in the competitive New York Job market.


Copyright © 2015 by James Mullen, J.D., Published at James Mullen is the author of “How to Write a Bar Exam Essay in 60 Minutes.” and “Bar Tracker.”

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