By Amber Nimocks

A few months ago, we asked NCBA members to respond to a short survey on the growing possibility of North Carolina’s adoption of a Uniform Bar Exam. More than 300 readers chimed in. Below is a snapshot of the results along with a few of the many reader comments. To read all the comments poll takers left, go to the North Carolina Lawyer page of our website.

 

POLL RESULTS

What is your reaction to the N.C. Board of Law Examiners’ move toward adopting the Uniform Bar Exam?

The majority of the 311 respondents, 59 percent, reacted in favor of the change.

89 or 29 percent: “It’s about time.”

95 or 30 percent: “It’s a good idea.”

127 or 41 percent: “It’s an abomination.”

How does that break down along practice experience lines?

We asked poll respondents to tell us how long they had been practicing law and found that the highest percentage of negative reactions to the UBE were among those who have been in practice for between six and 20 years. The percentage of positive reactions was highest among those who are less removed from the bar exam experience, with five or fewer years in practice, and among veterans who have been practicing for more than 20 years.

75 percent of those who have been practicing for 1 to 5 years favor the UBE.

17 percent of those who have been practicing for 6 to 10 years favor the UBE.

32 percent of those who have been practicing for 10 to 20 years favor the UBE.

75 percent of those who have  been practicing for more than 20 years favor the UBE.

TIMELINE

So far, 26 jurisdictions – 25 states plus the District of Columbia – have adopted the UBE. The range of passing scores is 260-280 among states that have adopted the UBE. In July 2016, 16,408 hopefuls took the UBE.

2002: Formal discussions about the possibility of a Uniform Bar Exam begin between members of the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools and the Conference of Chief Justices.

2010: Missouri and North Dakota adopt the UBE.

2011: Alabama, Missouri and North Dakota become the first states to administer the UBE to a total of 1,553 attorney hopefuls.

2016: ABA House of Delegates adopts a resolution from its Law Student Division urging all states to adopt the UBE.

Recent action by the N.C. Board of Law Examiners prompted our poll. In October, the UBE Committee of the N.C. Board of Law Examiners presented its report and recommendation calling for adoption. The board voted to approve the committee’s recommendation and has tasked the committee with working out the implementation process, which will include the Board of Law Examiners’ submission of proposed new rules providing for the adoption of the UBE to the State Bar Council. Final approval of the proposed rules will be determined by the N.C. Supreme Court.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners coordinates the Uniform Bar Exam. It includes the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Grading the test results remains the responsibility of the state, with guidance from the NCBE. UBE scores are accepted by other states that administer the UBE, but each state sets its own passing score.

COMMENTS

Pro

Aaron Lindquist, Fletcher, Toll & Ray, Wilmington

There are three reasons. First, uniform codes in many areas of the law have been and are being adopted across the country. Thus, we have uniformity in many areas such as commercial transactions, trusts, enforcing judgments, etc. Second, the very few areas of the law that are learned for the state-specific portion of the bar exam are soon forgotten. Any lawyer worth their salt looks up the elements of their claims (case law, treatises, pattern jury instructions, etc.). Third, a large number of law graduates do not have jobs at the time they are applying to take the bar exam and could use the flexibility offered by the UBE. For example, the student does not need to spend additional money to travel across the country to take a bar exam for a state they may not even end up practicing in or just to take the UBE.

Con

Edward Yeager, Mecklenburg County Attorney’s Office, Charlotte

Frankly, law schools do very little to prepare one for specifically practicing law in North Carolina. Preparing for a state-specific bar was a great learning experience. Adopting a UBE would deemphasize the necessity about learning N.C. law and would create even weaker young lawyers. The quality has diminished enough already.

Con

Leslie Rawls, Solo Practitioner, Charlotte

The choices were pretty extreme. If the UBE includes a North Carolina section and the uniform portion covers only those areas of law where North Carolina adopted Uniform Acts without modification, that’s fine. If the UBE means lawyers are licensed without knowledge of North Carolina specific law, it sets up the probability that attorneys will be harming clients and the public by handling matters for which they do not know the applicable law. It strikes me that even with Uniform Acts, the vast majority of North Carolina disputes are likely related to N.C.-specific laws. To allow licensing solely by UBE passage would harm clients who must trust lawyers to act on their behalf with knowledge and understanding of N.C. law and its specific distinctions.

Sources: http://www.ncbex.org/pdfviewer/?file=%2Fassets%2Fmedia_files%2FBar-Examiner%2Farticles%2F2016%2FBE-UBETimeline-850316.pdf; http://www.ncbex.org/exams/ube/