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With the Uniform Bar Exam, your future as a lawyer is wide open. This test—a more portable alternative to the state-specific bar exams of the past—is coming to Massachusetts in July 2018. Here’s what current and future law students need to know about it.

Once upon a time, each U.S. state and territory had its own bar exam, covering its unique laws.

So if you thought you might practice in two states—for example, Massachusetts and Rhode Island—you had to take both bar exams. But ask any lawyer: studying for one bar exam is tough enough. You can imagine what prepping for two (or more!) bar exams is like.  

People are even more mobile now. Gone are the days when students went to law school, took the bar, and lived and practiced all in the same state for the rest of their lives. In response to the demand for flexibility, the Uniform Bar Exam was born.

In short, the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) makes practicing law in another state much easier. Like state-specific bar exams, the UBE tests topics like evidence, constitutional law, and civil procedure. Unlike those exams, your UBE score is portable to any jurisdiction that has adopted the test, so you can move (almost) wherever your aspirations—or job prospects—take you.

This is great news for current and future lawyers, including the many law students in Massachusetts, which is set to administer its first UBE in July. Now you can go to law school in Massachusetts, take the Uniform Bar Exam in Massachusetts, and move to any states that have adopted the UBE with a fairly simple score transfer.

“The UBE allows law school graduates to choose where to practice in a way that was never possible with the former state exams,” said Judith G. Greenberg, Associate Dean and Professor of Law at New England Law | Boston. “We are pleased that Massachusetts has adopted the UBE; it gives our graduates lots of practice options.”

What is the Uniform Bar Exam, anyway?

Launched in 2011, the UBE is a national standardized exam that tests your reasoning abilities and the legal fundamentals you need to know as a lawyer. Like state-specific bar exams, it’s your gateway to practicing law in the real world.

The UBE is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners twice each year, at the end of July and February. It actually comprises three tests: the Multistate Bar Examination, the Multistate Essay Examination, and the Multistate Performance Test. (If you want to learn the nitty gritty details of what the exam entails, check out this handy guide.)

As of March 2018, 28 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia accept the exam. North Carolina is the latest state to adopt the UBE, and Tennessee and Ohio are considering it. You’ll find a full list of states offering the UBE here.

The Uniform Bar Exam in Massachusetts

Massachusetts will be administering its first Uniform Bar Exam July 24 and 25 of this year, opening up new possibilities for 2018 law school grads. And for future and current law students—especially those coming from out of state—it’s yet another reason to attend or transfer into one of the law schools in Massachusetts.

Besides being able to practice in Massachusetts, students can now take their passing UBE scores to some of the top states for lawyers, including New York, New Jersey, and Colorado. The UBE is also meaningful to the many international students who come to Massachusetts to study law, should they wish to explore more of the United States after they graduate.

It also means people who took the UBE in other states can transfer their scores into Massachusetts. And as one of the top 10 states for attorney compensation and home to some of the most respected firms in the country, Massachusetts may soon see an influx of attorneys educated throughout the U.S.  

In addition to the base exam, Massachusetts also requires the Massachusetts Law Component, a supplement that covers state-specific things like anti-discrimination laws. You can learn more about the UBE in Massachusetts here.

Studying for the exam

The UBE covers the fundamentals all accredited law schools need to teach. So it really comes down to how well your school prepares you for taking the exam, from teaching you how to structure your studying to test-taking skills like how to pace yourself, read questions properly, and write concisely and persuasively.

Most law students take two months leading up to the July bar exam to prepare—although New England Law starts bar preparation five months earlier, in addition to intensive training before the exam and bar prep throughout law school. Students are also universally encouraged to take bar exam prep courses in addition to any school-sponsored training. (Many law schools, including New England Law, also offer course discounts for students.)

And there you have it: a crash course on the Uniform Bar Exam and its new home in Massachusetts. Keep on studying, Class of 2018, and good luck!


Learn about our bar exam prep here.