(Reuters) – New York’s voluntary bar association urged the state’s high court on Monday to scrap the Uniform Bar Exam, the licensure test used by most U.S. states that provides law school graduates a portable score, for a test more focused on local law.
“Given the unique complexities of the New York legal landscape … it is not enough that an applicant show competence solely with reference to the ‘law of nowhere,'” the New York State Bar Association Task Force on the New York Bar Exam wrote in a report.
It recommended that the New York Court of Appeals appoint a working group to develop a bar exam over the next four to five years.
The UBE, developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, is administered in more than 30 states and Washington, D.C.
New York, the country’s largest legal market, started using the test in 2015.
The NYSBA task force examined whether the UBE was preparing New York applicants to practice law in the state in 2020, when complications from the coronavirus pandemic sparked a wave of support for eliminating or altering the bar exam.
Several UBE jurisdictions including New York used non-UBE tests in 2020, instead creating their own online exams because of the pandemic. But those scores were still portable because jurisdictions created reciprocity agreements.
The NYSBA task force said New York could continue to provide a portable score without using the UBE through similar reciprocity agreements.
“The experience during the pandemic reflects that portability can be achieved, not by relying on a putative ‘national’ test, but by states working together to extend reciprocity under appropriate terms and conditions,” the report said.
A representative for the NCBE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A representative for the New York Court of Appeals, which would have the final say on changes to the bar exam, declined to comment.
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Reporting by Caroline Spiezio