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    01.22.15 Dean Nick Allard Testifies on Proposal to Adopt Unified Bar Exam for New York
    Nick Allard

    Brooklyn Law School President and Dean Nicholas Allard testified before the Committee on the Unified Bar Exam (UBE) at CUNY Law School on Jan. 20, 2015. The Committee, created by New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, is examining a proposal to adopt the UBE for New York.

    “I applaud Judge Lippman’s decision to appoint this Advisory Committee to review New York’s bar exam given the growing number of cross-state and multiple jurisdictional practices, and the radically changing nature of the job market all graduates face,” Allard told the Committee chaired by the Honorable Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals.

    The UBE is a uniformly administered, graded, and scored exam offering a portable score that can be transferred to other UBE states. Currently, 14 states have adopted the UBE. The proposed revision of the New York bar exam would adopt the UBE and add a New York law component, a 50 item, one-hour multiple choice test. A passing score on both the UBE and New York component would be required to be certified for admission to the bar.

    While Allard said he supports the proposal, his remarks were focused on the need for an “ongoing comprehensive effort to improve how new lawyers are licensed to practice.” Allard raised a number of concerns about the current bar exam system that he said must be addressed in addition to evaluating the pros and cons of adopting the UBE, including the relevance of the current bar exam system given the rapid changes in legal education and the profession.

    “There is widespread agreement within the profession that law schools need to teach more practical skills,” Allard said. “All schools have incorporated this into their curricula, yet how do we evaluate and measure practical, clinical experience? Is a written test truly the best way to evaluate practical experience?”

    The UBE is designed and scored by the National Council of Bar Examiners (NCBE), an organization Allard said needs closer scrutiny. “We should carefully examine [NCBE’s] track record in developing objective, reliable exams, its organizational mission, any conflicts of interest, and questions about accountability and transparency,” he said. Further questioning NCBE’s role and influence, Allard called for a “thorough and adequate explanation” for the historic drop nationwide in bar exam passing rates last July. “Shouldn’t we all collectively have a sense of urgency about getting this right?” Allard asked the Committee. “The July results affected real students all over the country. It’s not a theoretical or hypothetical problem.”  

    Allard also raised questions about the ways in which the current bar exam system erects barriers to the profession for less-advantaged students at a time when the nation needs a more diverse cadre of well-prepared lawyers. “My worry is that our outmoded, but improving, system of legal education and licensing still is unintentionally precluding many able and motivated people from becoming lawyers,” he said. “We can do better.”

    The Committee will issue its report this spring.

    Read Dean Allard’s testimony here.
    Read more about the proposal to adopt the UBE for New York here.

    New York Law Journal: “Panelists Hear Concerns About Adopting Uniform Bar Exam,” Jan. 22, 2015