What New Bar Exam Means For Law Students And Schools
by PRP Group, on 10/07/2022
In 2021, the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the entity that develops testing materials for bar admissions, announced that it will be developing a new exam for bar admissions—the NextGen Bar Exam. This announcement was made after a three-year study that evaluated how an exam can effectively test the knowledge and skills that a newly licensed attorney must have upon entering the legal profession. A key takeaway from this study was that the bar exam should place greater emphasis on the lawyering skills that a newly licensed attorney will need to perform in the real world. So though we don’t quite know what this new exam will look like, the Content Scope Outlines released by the NCBE show that a strong emphasis will be placed on skills-based tasks, while rote memorization will be put on the back burner.
These changes reflect growing criticism that the current bar exam fails to test students on what they actually need to know as newly licensed attorneys and instead focuses too much on memorizing rules that are often irrelevant to their legal careers. (For example, students are asked to learn the common-law definition for crimes that are now codified by statutes that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction). As a result, attorneys are entering the legal profession with the need to learn real-life lawyering skills that they never learned in law school.