Should I Take The Uniform Bar Exam?
Figuring which bar exam to take after you graduate law school can be tricky. You need to consider which bar will help you the most in your job search and your future career. One of the options you may be considering is to take the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) in one of the 28 jurisdictions that offer it in the United States. If you are wondering whether or not you should take the UBE you should consider the following five things.
Should I Take The Uniform Bar Exam?
1. You have a broader job search with the UBE.
The UBE has spread quickly across the nation. The UBE was first administered in 2011. Now, the majority of legal jurisdictions in the United States are UBE jurisdictions. This greatly broadens your job search from coast to coast. The UBE encompasses 28 jurisdictions total which includes over half the states. Twenty-six states are now UBE jurisdictions, with Maryland and North Carolina joining the ranks in the future. Two major legal hubs, Washington, D.C. and New York, are UBE jurisdictions as well. This opens a huge legal job market. If you are not sure what law you want to practice or where you want to practice, the options are almost unlimited.
Choosing to take the Uniform Bar Exam not only broadens your job search. It also adds a selling point to you as a job applicant. In interviews, you can explain that you can help serve a firm’s needs by becoming barred in multiple states across the country where they do business.
2. A UBE score is not a portable as you might think.
UBE scores do not last forever. Once you take and pass the bar in a UBE jurisdiction, your UBE score is only good for a few years. This depends on the state you want to transfer your score to. Most states have limits of how long after taking an exam that they will let you transfer it to their state. Some states only give you 2 years to transfer a score. If you do not transfer your score in time you may just have to retake the exam! (Read this post to see the exact amount of time states allow you to transfer your score.)
Also, if you do not plan on transferring your score to another jurisdiction, then make sure you really want to just be barred in the state you are taking the bar exam in. This is especially true for D.C., since any taker of a state bar exam can waive into DC after they have passed their own bar. So, stay on top of the rules if you plan on transferring your score! Also, paying the bar membership fees and CLE requirements for two jurisdictions can be expensive. So be sure you really want to transfer your score.
3. If you fail one jurisdiction you may be able to be barred in other jurisdictions.
Failing the bar exam sucks, but it sucks less if you fail the UBE in one jurisdiction. Why? Well, you still may have a high enough score to be barred in another jurisdiction! Different UBE jurisdictions require different passing scores. Some states require scores as high as 280. But as long as you get a 260 or higher you can be barred as an attorney in five states if you transfer your score. Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and North Dakota all require 260 or above. So if you fail by a few points in the jurisdiction you take the UBE in, you could possibly be barred in another another state.
4. You may not have to learn state specific law on the UBE.
Probably the most appealing thing that might make you want to take the Uniform Bar Exam is that you may not have to memorize any state law. Twice a year, thousands of applicants spend hours learning state law in areas they never use. Luckily, the UBE tests general legal principles similar to those you learned in law school. So if you took a class in the topic you should have a solid footing for studying for that topic on the UBE. Sometimes you have to know the majority or minority rule but nothing too overly specific like on other bar exams. The general legal principles you memorize for the bar exam will also hopefully be useful to you in your future legal career.
5. Do not take the UBE solely because of a rumor you hear.
You may be considering the UBE because you heard that the jurisdiction you want to be barred in is considering switching to the UBE in the next few years. If that state switches to the UBE, you could be barred in two states. Then, you would not have to worry about learning state law. So you could skip learning the state law, and then later be barred in the jurisdiction you want to be in. But if the state never ends up switching to the UBE and you want to practice there, you will have to take it anyway. Do not take the UBE solely because you think the jurisdiction you want will switch. If you need that jurisdiction, then just take that bar.
So, should you take the Uniform Bar Exam?
In general, your reasons for taking a bar exam should be concrete. You should not take the UBE if your reasons are along the lines of “maybe this state will be UBE” or “maybe firms will like it because I can be barred in more states.” Your reasons for taking a bar exam in a state should be certain. If you can help it, you want to sit for the least amount of bar exams. So do your research, talk to your professors and network, and make an informed decision.
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