Law.com reports on a planned major reform of the multistate bar examination.
The new bar exam, due to be launched in 2026 and will cover more subjects and skills than the existing version, is available for comment by legal professionals.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners asked for input from the legal community on draft outline of the exam content. Once finalized, it will be used to guide exam writers, future exam takers and law school students as they approach the new exam.
The NCBE, which develops bar exam content for 54 U.S. jurisdictions, has published the preliminary Content Scope Outlines for the next generation of the bar exam on its website. Most U.S. attorneys have to pass the bar exam before they can be licensed.
NCBE invites members of the U.S. Legal Community to examine and comment on the Content Scope outlines. You can comment until April 18th.
One change would include the elimination of conflicts of laws as well as several other topics from the exam.
According to NCBE, the most significant change in the exam’s content will be the decrease of 8 subjects to 12. These include civil procedure, contract and law (including Article 2 and the Uniform Commercial Code), evidence and torts.
NCBE says that the exam will not be used to test family, conflict, and trust law or secured transactions. Instead, NCBE will focus on some specific legal concepts.
According to the story, this is a decision that indicates that conflicts or other disfavored subjects don’t occur enough often or sufficiently widely or that it doesn’t matter how much you know about them when they do.
This conclusion regarding conflicts is a surprise to me, I must admit. Most transactions or incidents have at least some contact with multiple jurisdictions. It is not intuitive to me that the laws governing these transactions can be governed by which state. This earlier post is about the Supreme Court conflict case. In fact, I have found that lawyers with no experience in conflict law often lack the knowledge necessary to practice. They don’t even realize they are facing a question about conflict of laws.
The bar committee must have carefully considered this question, and I assume they understand what they’re doing. More important to me is the potential consequences of the removal of conflict laws from the bar examination.
It is possible that this will completely bury conflict research as a subject if it happens. It is already viewed as an intellectual backwater. This was evident in my own experience a decade ago, when I told people that I would like to become a professor of conflicts. The countervailing force that generates this is the NSA. AnyAt least one law school has a sense that there is demand for professors who specialize in conflicts. I believe that if conflicts is not a “bar course”, the demand for conflict professors will slowly decrease to zero.
While I don’t think that is a reason to not reform the bar exam. This should be in the best interests of the public and not law professors. However, it means that some of the most important views and observations regarding conflicts will need to be assimiled into other fields like civil procedure and federal law.