Alton, IL

Standardized Bar Exam Considered

Story by WBGZ Radio

Illinois' highest court has given the green light to explore adopting a standardized bar exam for attorneys, opening up Illinois' litigation market to 24 other states.

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to a series of public hearings to discuss whether Illinois should adopt the Uniform Bar Exam, or UBE. Created by the National Conference of Bar examiners, the UBE is a bar exam that allows a lawyer to practice in 24 affiliated states and the District of Columbia. Adopting the standardization would allow lawyers from the other UBE states to practice freely in Illinois and vice versa, simultaneously increasing competition and job prospects for local attorneys. Currently, out-of-state lawyers active in three out of the last five years do not have to retake the bar to practice in Illinois.

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Legal education non-profit group Law School Transparency Executive Director Kyle McEntee said some states quietly oppose the move to protect their markets from outside competition, so the movement to adopt the UBE will never reach the hearing phase in these states, but "once you have that public hearing, it becomes a lot more difficult to oppose it," McEntee said. "It's difficult to take a public position that you want to oppose it because it's anti-competitive."

McEntee said adopting the UBE would help the job prospects of local law students and attorneys alike.

"Law school is a very expensive proposition. (The UBE) provides flexibility for students and lawyers to take advantage of their degree when the job market doesn't quite work like they expect or hope," McEntee said.

Members of Illinois' bar association voted to adopt the UBE earlier this month. The board's website said adopting the test would be relatively easy, replacing three essay questions with another type of essay.

New York state adopted the UBE last year. In the Midwest, only neighboring Iowa and Missouri use the UBE.

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