Michigan Adopts Uniform Bar Exam
The state of Michigan has become the 41st jurisdiction to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). The first UBE in Michigan will be administered in July 2022. First adopted by Missouri and North Dakota, the concept of UBE was introduced about ten years ago in 2011.
Indiana and Oklahoma administered their first UBE in July this year and the test made its debut in Texas in February this year. In February, Pennsylvania also announced that it will adopt the UBE and will start administering it from July 2022. California, Virginia, and Florida are a few states that are yet to jump on the UBE bandwagon.
Following this decision, Michigan Bar Exam takers will be able to transfer their test scores to other UBE jurisdictions for admission without having to appear for the bar exam again in that jurisdiction. One major change that will follow is the elimination of the essay part of the Michigan Bar Exam. The essay part covers state law and is worth 50% of the examinee’s total test score. Earlier in July this year, retired judge Alan D. Scheinkman and New York State Bar Association past president Michael Miller expressed similar concerns over jettisoning of the state law-specific questions in the UBE. The pair wrote in an article that the test leaves newly admitted lawyers unprepared to represent clients in the state.
Expressing dissent over the dropping of the Michigan law exam section from the test, Justice Richard Bernstein said that the state law portion protects new attorneys as well as the public. He also expressed doubts over the time-bound Multistate Performance Test’s capacity to “meaningfully assess an applicant’s ability to practice.”
The uniformly graded and administered exam consists of three components: the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Exam (MPE). The Multistate Bar Exam has been in existence in Michigan since 1974. It is a one-day exam consisting of 200 multiple choice questions on seven subjects (Criminal Law and Procedure, Constitutional Law, Torts, Contracts, Real Property, Civil Procedure, and Evidence) to test subject-matter knowledge.
The Multistate Essay Exam consists of six 30-minute essay questions on any of the 12 listed subjects. It tests the examinee’s ability to communicate effectively in writing. The MPT tests the examinees’ lawyering skills through two 90-minute writing assignments. It requires the examinee to draft a brief, memo, contract, or other legal documents based on the legal materials provided. Each jurisdiction sets its own minimum passing score for the UBE and the total score is reported on a 400-point scale.
Speaking about the latest change, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh said in an order issued on October 13, “This change seeks to ensure a standard level of competency for lawyers across the country, allows for score portability, and makes the practice of law more accessible to law school graduates facing employment challenges and rising debt.”