UBE? Maybe.

Divya Potdar

Divya Potdar

An advisory committee to the Maryland Court of Appeals recently announced it will hold a public hearing on the feasibility of Maryland’s adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination. The Court of Appeals is considering whether to adopt components of the UBE in addition to the one-day, multiple-choice exam (Multistate Bar Exam) in lieu of or as a part of the traditional, one-day Maryland essay exam. The UBE Advisory Committee has identified five topics and formed related subcommittees, including: portability; scoring; the state law component; quality control; and comparing Maryland essay topics and UBE topics.

The UBE is coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and is administered, graded and scored by user jurisdictions. Those who take the UBE, can transfer their scores to any participating jurisdiction during a three-year period to seek admission. Currently, 26 states and D.C. have adopted the UBE.

I think the UBE is not currently feasible for a state like Maryland, which has several areas of law that differ from the majority of states. We have peculiarities in family law, property law and tort law, as well as nuances with respect to procedure and evidence. I remember in law school we would learn the law for “most states” and then invariably have to also learn the “minority rule” because that is usually the category that Maryland fell in.

The essay portion of the current Maryland bar exam, in fact, targets these differences and requires candidates to demonstrate their understanding of how Maryland differs from the majority of other jurisdictions. Adopting the UBE would likely lead to law schools altering their curriculum to focus less on nuanced state subjects. Not forcing law students to exhibit their knowledge of Maryland law could put new practitioners at a disadvantage when they start practicing.

I asked my friend Blake, whose practice frequently takes him across the western U.S., for his thoughts. He expressed his appreciation for the UBE since he is now licensed in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

“I think the states which don’t adopt it are the dinosaurs that want to protect the grads of their own law schools,” he said.

But Blake acknowledged the laws in the Western states are often very similar. I also imagine adoption of the UBE can create some resentment for those who cannot waive into any other jurisdictions (besides D.C.) just by virtue of taking the bar exam a year earlier.

Maryland is a highly-coveted bar for attorneys to take, probably due to its geographic proximity to the nation’s capital. The portability of UBE scores can enable attorneys during a difficult job market to relocate and find jobs in a less-saturated area. UBE is a great concept but I am not sure if it is a good fit for Maryland, where often the minority rule is the law of the land of pleasant living.

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