Indiana to switch to Uniform Bar Exam in 2021

Indiana has decided to join the growing majority of states and adopt the Uniform Bar Exam in July 2021, according to an announcement Tuesday from the Indiana Supreme Court.

The UBE has been developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and is composed of the Multistate Essay Examination, the Multistate Performance Test and the Multistate Bar Examination. More than 35 states currently use the UBE with Texas, Kentucky and Oklahoma also adopting the exam next year.

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order adopting the UBE next summer. Also, the court ordered the February 2021 exam be administered remotely using ExamSoft’s Examplify software.

Currently, Indiana uses the Multistate Performance Test, which requires the applicants to do some kind of legal task, such as writing a memo or letter, and the Multistate Bar Examination, which is a 200-question multiple-choice test. However, the Hoosier state always wrote its own essay questions that focused on Indiana law.

The desire to keep the Indiana essay questions split the committee appointed in 2019 to review and recommend changes to the state’s lawyer licensing test.

A majority of the Study Commission on the Future of the Indiana Bar Exam, co-chaired by retired Chief Justice Randall Shepard and Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Nancy Vaidik, advocated for the adoption of the UBE. They said the national test was fairer and more reliable, and the Indiana applicants would be able to practice in other UBE states without having to sit for another bar exam.

Opponents of the UBE noted passage rates have declined since the state started using the MPT and the MBE. Also, they are concerned the exam will not be focused on Indiana law.

The Indiana Supreme Court said applicants taking the UBE would be required to complete an Indiana component. No details were given as to what the Indiana portion would consist of or how it would be administered.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush said the adoption of the UBE would be beneficial.

“We are thankful for the work of the members of the Study Commission and are looking forward to begin offering the UBE to applicants,” she said. “These changes will ensure qualified test-takers can join the legal profession on-time to provide needed legal services.”

The February 2021 exam will be a two-day exam given Feb. 23 and 24 and consisting of the Indiana Essay Examination, the MPT and MBE. Like the July 2020 bar exam, the February test will be administered remotely because of ongoing concerns about COVID-19.

Problems plagued the July exam as the Indiana Board of Law Examiners struggled against malfunctioning software. The board finally decided to email the questions on the day of the test and allow the bar applicants to consult outside materials during the exam.

Results from the summer bar exam recorded an overall pass rate of 78%, the highest in years.

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