Tennessee Considers Major Change To Bar Exam

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Tennessee to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which would be a major change in the portability of bar exam results for aspiring Tennessee attorneys. The UBE is a nationwide test that has been adopted by 28 states and allows takers to transfer scores between states. Under current rules, a Tennessee lawyer needing to obtain a license in another state would have to meet waiver requirements, which often include a significant experience component, or retake the bar exam in that state. The proposal would allow UBE scores earned in Tennessee to be used to become licensed in others states. In addition, attorneys from other states utilizing the UBE could petition for admittance in Tennessee based on those results.

“Lawyers are more mobile than they once were. No longer do lawyers settle in one state and practice in that state until retirement,” said Jeffrey Ward, President of the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners (TBLE). “Multi-jurisdictional, or cross-border, practice is more common, particularly in Tennessee, where we border more states than any other state in the Union. This can be seen in the increase in applications for admissions without examination in recent years.”

Between 2012 and 2016, TBLE saw a 90.4 percent increase in requests for admission without examination and a 218 percent increase in in-house counsel registration applications. In Tennessee, in order to be eligible for admission without exam, lawyers must be in good standing in at least one other jurisdiction and have at least five to seven years of experience.  The proposal would provide more mobility for younger, or more recently admitted, attorneys.

“Adopting the Uniform Bar Exam makes sense for several reasons. Any lawyer who successfully completes the UBE will be able to move more readily from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” said Alberto R. Gonzales, Dean and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Professor of Law at Belmont University College of Law. “Additionally, while the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners does a good job with the Tennessee Bar Exam, adoption of the UBE will, on balance, result in higher quality bar exam essay questions. Finally, with the UBE applicants will have access to published quality model or selected exam answers which should help them be better prepared to take the bar exam.”

The UBE is prepared and coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and consists of three parts: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), which includes 200 multiple choice questions; two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, which are 90-minute exercises testing basic lawyering skills; and six Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) questions. The current Tennessee Bar Exam uses the MBE multiple choice questions, one MPT task, and nine Tennessee-specific essay questions. The nine essay questions are prepared and graded locally. One benefit of using the MEE essay questions is the vast amount of testing and resources that go into developing each question, something that is hard to duplicate on a small scale, according to the petition. If the proposal is accepted, the MEE questions would still be graded by local Tennessee attorneys.

Opponents of the UBE often express concern that the examination lacks an ability to emphasize or test on local laws and procedures, which can vary from state-to-state, especially in the areas of civil and criminal procedure, real estate, and wills, trusts, and estates. In order to address this concern, the proposal recommends instituting a mandatory, post-admission local law course. Lawyers are already required to take continuing legal education every year to maintain a license.

The petition requests that the UBE be adopted beginning with the July 2018 administration of the Tennessee Bar examination.

In the region, Alabama, Missouri, West Virginia, and South Carolina have adopted the UBE. The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners voted to adopt the UBE effective February 2019, but the proposal has not yet been accepted by the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

The Tennessee proposal is now open for public comment, which will be accepted until Jan. 5, 2018. The comments will be reviewed by the Supreme Court of Tennessee before a final decision is made.



Alexander: New Mercury Treatment Facility In Oak Ridge Will Mean “Safer, Cleaner Water”

Senator Lamar Alexander Monday spoke at the groundbreaking of a new water treatment facility at Y-12, “Outfall 200,” which supporters say will help reduce the amount of mercury getting into Tennessee waterways to safe levels and make it possible for cleanup work to begin at Y-12. “In May 2013, I came to Oak Ridge to announce that a new water treatment facility would be built ... (click for more)

Tyson Foods To Create 1,500 New Jobs In Humboldt

Tyson Food, Inc. officials announced Monday that the company will locate new operations in Gibson County.   Food processor, Tyson Foods, will create more than 1,500 jobs and invest over $300 million in Humboldt, which represents Tyson’s biggest investment in Tennessee and the single largest investment in Gibson County’s history.  “I want to thank Tyson Foods ... (click for more)

Former Executive Assistant To Pilot Sales Director Recalls Being Interviewed By FBI While Nursing Her Baby On The Front Porch

The executive assistant to the vice president of sales at Pilot Flying J told a Chattanooga jury on Monday that she never expected to be interviewed by the FBI on the front porch of her Knoxville home, nursing a one-month-old and with her other two young children running around in the yard. Katy Bibee, who worked directly for an expected star witness for the prosecution, said ... (click for more)

Tony Williams, 26, Shot On Dodson Avenue Late Sunday Night

Tony Williams, 26, was shot late Sunday night on Dodson Avenue. Chattanooga Police responded at 11:50 p.m.,  to the 900 block of Dodson Avenue on a shooting.   Upon arrival, police located the victim who was suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound. HCEMS responded and transported the victim to a nearby hospital. The victim advised police that the ... (click for more)

Pollution For Profit?

Why should Chattanooga allow special interests to boost sediment pollution in our South Chickamauga Creek? To pad their profit margin and pass that cost on to city taxpayers? If your city council votes to reduce the storm water regulations – that is the result we can expect. Special interest homebuilders profit, but citizens pay.  More sediment pollution and paid for with ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Two From Sandy

Down through the years I have delighted in sharing stories that come from my friend Sandy Pohfal in Texas. Seeing how Thanksgiving is almost here – day after tomorrow – I figure it’s about time to slow down and let warmth of this week prepare us to give thanks for both the good and bad – without the bad things we wouldn’t recognize the real blessings. The first story I am going ... (click for more)