As N.Y. Considers Uniform Bar Exam (With a Twist), Iowa Declines

By William Peacock, Esq. on October 08, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

This came out of nowhere: The New York State Bar is considering adopting the Uniform Bar Exam (with a small twist). If it does, New York will be the largest state, by far, to do so, and it'll mean big things for the future of the UBE. It'll also mean big things for law grads and lawyers who want more job portability, as the UBE would cover 15 states if adopted in New York.

Meantime, Iowa, which was considering the UBE and a diploma privilege for in-state graduates, declined to adopt either. It'll be an old-fashioned, state-specific bar exam, at least for now.

UBE Hits the Big Leagues?

With all due respect to the current UBE states, most of them are in what many might refer to as flyover states -- my dear native lands of Missouri included.

New York, a state with more bar-takers annually than any other, a state with reciprocity nationwide, and a state that people outside of America have actually heard of, is kind of a big deal for the Uniform Bar Exam -- and even bigger for law grads.

Pass once, in New York, and when you get sick of overpriced real estate or blistering cold, take that bar license and move to Alaska, or Arizona, or the coolest city in America. Or if you're unemployed, take the UBE in a cheap state where your family lives, try to line up some temporary work (doc review), and then fire away apps at jobs in New York, because you know, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

And if New York adopts the UBE, with its little twist (see below), perhaps other states might follow.

So will it happen? The exhaustive proposal and expedited timeline make it seem like a good possibility. If this goes through, the first UBE test would be in July 2015, less than a year from now, reports the New York Law Journal.

If that sounds brilliant to you, or terrible, you can send your input to or via snail-mail to Diane Bosse, chair, New York State Board of Law Examiners, Corporate Plaza, Building 3, 254 Washington Ave. Ext., Albany, NY, 12203-5195.

What's the Twist?

It's not exactly "Uniform." On one of the two days of the exam, you'll be given a 50-question state-specific exam, reports NYLJ. Other states, like Missouri, do something similar, but it's a take-home affair if I remember correctly.

And if you're already a Uniform Bar Exam passer, the proposal out of New York would have two additional mini-test dates for folks who failed the state-specific portion or who are porting in a score from out of state.

What Happened to Iowa?

We discussed the proposals out of Iowa a short while ago: a diploma privilege (waived bar exam) for graduates of in-state schools, as well as adoption of the UBE. Alas, despite the urging of the state bar association, the Iowa Supreme Court has declined to adopt the proposals, reports The Daily Iowan.

At least to us, Iowa's bar exam (Multistate Bar Exam, Multistate Essay Exam, Multistate Performance Test) seemed indistinguishable from the UBE (MBE, MEE, MPT as well), so the only explanation for this seems to be a fear of the effects of bar license portability. Their loss, we guess. Then again, how great would New York look to unemployed Iowan UBE grads?

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