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Illinois Supreme Court Adopts Uniform Bar Exam

Illinois became the 30th state to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) June 8 when the Illinois Supreme Court approved it to be the main component for bar admission. 

The UBE is a nationwide test that allows test takers to transfer scores between states, which improves mobility of Illinois attorneys. It will be given for the first time in Illinois in July 2019. 

The Illinois Board of Admission to the Bar held public hearings in Springfield, Carbondale, and Chicago in 2016 to provide information on the UBE and to seek comments regarding its potential adoption. The comments received were overwhelmingly supportive of the change. That same year, the Illinois State Bar Association Board and Assembly issued recommendations that the supreme court should adopt the UBE. 

The UBE was first administered in 2011. It is a bar examination prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which has been adopted in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Administered over two days, the UBE consists of: (a) the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a 200-question multiple-choice test; (b) the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), which consists of six essay questions on general principles of law; and (c) the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which includes two hypothetical legal assignments requiring examinees to complete the tasks in writing. People who take the UBE receive a portable score that may be transferred to another UBE jurisdiction, provided certain criteria are met. 

The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar had proposed to the supreme court that the UBE be adopted as the Illinois bar examination. In making this proposal, the board considered three primary factors: (1) the board’s belief that the UBE is a high-quality examination, demonstrated by the fact that Illinois has utilized all of the UBE components - MBE, MEE and MPT - as parts of the Illinois Bar Examination (IBE) for the past 19 years; (2) the growing acceptance of the UBE throughout the country, which is establishing the UBE as the standard bar examination in the United States; and (3) the time-saving and cost-saving benefits to law school graduates that derive from having portable bar exam scores. The board recognized that the IBE and UBE are already seven-eighths identical in content and that the changeover from the IBE to the UBE would be relatively easy, i.e., replacing the three essay questions on Illinois law with a second MPT question. With the use of two MPTs, the court believes that is consistent with the goal of measuring the skills and knowledge expected of beginning attorneys. 

More information is available on the board website. The rule amendments (704, 704a, 706) are available on the Illinois courts website.

Posted on June 8, 2018 by Rhys Saunders
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Member Comments (4)

Unfortunately, I think, there seems to be no Illinois law component.

I agree with Professor Parness and further dislike the spin "which improves mobility of Illinois attorneys" suggesting a benefit to Illinois lawyers to be perplexing.  I expect to see more out-of-staters in larger firms using this than Illinois attorneys.  One of the things that I disliked about the ABA for was it's bent in favor of large firms.  I see this happening more and more with Illinois law in general.  The changes to Pro Hac Vice rules, multi-jurisdictional practice, the change to the FRE from the Illinois Common Law etc.

Note that an October 2016 ISBA Committe report suggested both an Illinnois specific exam was needed (administered periodically through the year), as were new minimum CLE credits in a lawyer's first year of practice related to "distinctions in Illinois substance and procedure.".

Will an attorney who passed the uniform exam two or three years ago now be admitted in Illinois without further exam?