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Changes to the Bar Exam Coming in 2015


Current 1L students, or anyone planning to take the Texas (or another state's) Bar Exam in 2015 or after ought to pay close attention in their Federal Civil Procedure courses. Beginning with the February 2105 exam, the Multistate Bar Exam will add Federal civil procedure to the list of subjects tested. Every jurisdiction, with the exception of Louisiana, uses the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) as part of their examination of attorney hopefuls. Currently, the MBE covers constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, evidence, real property, and torts. For the current 200 question test, 190 of the questions are scored, with 31 to 33 questions devoted to each subject. Test takers have three hours to complete the first 100 questions, and after a break, another three hours to answer the remaining one hundred questions. In Texas, the MBE is administered on the second day of the bar exam, with the first day devoted to the Multistate Performance Test, as well as the Texas Procedure and Evidence Exam. On the third day, Texas bar examinees answer twelve essay questions on topics including business associations, trusts and guardianships, wills, family law, consumer law, and real property.  The addition of federal civil procedure questions will not add to the length of the test, instead the number of questions for each subject will decrease slightly, to 28 questions on contracts, and 27 questions on the other subjects.

 The institution that writes and administers the MBE, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), was formed in 1931. Created at behest of the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, during a time when the ABA was seeking uniformity among state standards for admitting new lawyers, the NCBE was formed with the aim of applying reasonable and uniform standards of education and character for eligibility for admission to the practice of law. Today, the NCBE is responsible for producing not only the Multistate Bar Exam, but also the Multistate Essay Exam (used by about ½ of U.S. jurisdictions), the Multistate Performance Test, and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. The NCBE has also created the Uniform Bar Exam, which includes the Multistate Performance Test, Multistate Essay Exam, and Multistate Bar Exam. The Uniform Bar Exam has been adopted by thirteen jurisdictions.  

Though some have complained that the change to add federal civil procedure to the MBE will result in double-testing of the subject, this does not appear to be a problem for Texas bar examinees. The Multistate Essay Exam, which Texas does not administer in lieu of its own essay questions, already includes federal civil procedure as a potential essay topic. The Multistate Essay Exam will be used by thirty states and U.S. territories by 2014, but there is no evidence that Texas will be joining those ranks anytime soon. Currently, federal civil procedure is not listed as a test topic in the appendix to the Texas bar exam rules (Appendix A- Texas Bar Exam Subjects). Instead, Federal criminal procedure, Texas criminal procedure, and Texas civil procedure are the only topics listed for testing as part of the Texas Procedure and Evidence Exam.

While there is no doubt that the various bar preparation companies will do their best to prepare students taking the bar exam in 2015 and beyond for this addition to the MBE, students beginning their law school careers may want to devote even more attention to the notoriously complex first year course.

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