A movement to adopt a uniform bar exam that would make aspiring lawyers’ scores portable from state to state and possibly save consumers money is gaining traction in several states but encountering opposition from others.
Missouri has been out front with implementation of a uniform bar exam and could give the first one as early as 2010, says Kellie Early, Missouri Board of Law Examiners executive director.
Jurisdictions including Colorado, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Dakota are among those considering a uniform exam, bar officials in those jurisdictions say.
Others, including officials from New York, Delaware and California, say they have reservations about the idea.
Consumers of legal services could benefit if their lawyers could handle a matter that bridges two states, said Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which supports the uniform exam.
“For consumers, the out-of-pocket expenses would be less when a case involves multiple states,” said Penny Miller, a North Dakota Board of Law Examiners official.
A uniform exam also “levels the playing field” and could address concerns about bias against historically underrepresented groups in admission to the bar, said Micah Yarbrough, director of bar programs at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del.
All states currently require their own bar exam, Moeser said. A national exam would benefit law graduates burdened with debt and facing a tight job market, she said.
Often students have to decide where they’re going to take the bar before they even have a job offer, Moeser said. “One of the top three questions among law students is: Where should I sit for the bar?” Yarbrough said.
Most states would need the approval of their high courts to adopt a national test, Moeser said.