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One profession, one test – adopt the UBE

Uniform Bar Exam

The start of the second semester of my final year of law school well underway and my list of to-do’s growing ever longer: reading for class, journal editing, document drafting for my externship, applying for graduation – and that’s only in my law school bubble. But the one to-do that I’ve continued to put off, already to the detriment of my wallet, is applying for the bar exam.

You see, I’ve moved some. Though I currently attend law school in New York, I grew up in Maryland and attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. Like many law students, I was applying to jobs anywhere and everywhere, hoping to find a job that I’d enjoy in a region that I wouldn’t mind living in. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be practicing in upstate New York, New York City, Philly, D.C., or someplace else entirely – and didn’t care, so long as I was gainfully employed.

Unfortunately, though, bar exam application filing dates come months before the bar exam itself – on-time filing deadlines for the July 2016 bar range anywhere from Jan. 6 in North Carolina to June 12 in Puerto Rico. Bar application fees rise if you apply for an examination after this “on-time” deadline.

For example, if I had applied for the Maryland bar before Jan. 19, 2016, barely into this semester, my fee would have been $50 cheaper than it now will be should I take that bar exam. How are we supposed to know where we will take the bar exam before we know where we will find employment?

I am fortunate to have found federal employment, so I can take any bar exam, but that doesn’t make my choice any easier. New York has adopted the Uniform Bar Exam for July 2016 administration, meaning that I could take that exam with the ability to easily transfer to up to 19 other jurisdictions plus the District of Columbia. But my home state of Maryland has not adopted this common-sense reform, and so if I sat for that bar, I would be greatly constrained in where I seek employment for the next five years.

This is but one reason that I and the Law Student Division are introducing Resolution 109 at the ABA Midyear Meeting next week in San Diego. This resolution calls on all jurisdictions to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam as expeditiously as possible. This exam maintains attorney quality while better enabling law students to find employment in the face of crushing student debt and a weak legal market. Adopting the Uniform Bar Exam allows current law students and future lawyers the flexibility to go where their circumstances dictate.

It’s time for the legal profession to make the right move and support law students.

Christopher Jennison Chris Jennison is a graduate of Syracuse University's College of Law from Silver Spring, Maryland. He previously served as the Second Circuit Governor of the Law Student Division and just finished his term as the law student member of the ABA's Board of Governors for 2015-2016. Christopher received a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government (2014) and a B.A. with honors from Syracuse University in Public Relations and Public Policy (2012). He is currently an extern with Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.