Thursday, August 6, 2015

I Was Asked to Comment About the New Two-Day Bar Exam Format, So ....

The CA Bar Exam is going to be shortened to two days starting July 2017?  Yeah, well, what can I say?  The fact that the the State Bar decided to shorten the Bar Exam from three days to two days obviously does not impact me at all, but I am curious about the format for the new Performance Exams.  I suppose they're going to be using the Multi-State Performance Exams (MPTs) that are common in other states.

When I was studying for the exam I remember seeing the 90-minute exams discussed in the commercial study guides I bought, and wondered how rigorous they could be.  I imagined they were nothing more than a glorified essay, but I suspect they're actually quite different because, after all, they're measuring "performance" in a real-world scenario.  I don't really know though because I never looked closely at one.

I've read some of the commentary about the new format and it appears the State Bar is determined to keep California at the top of the difficulty scale, so they're going to have to do something to keep the "bar" for admission as high as it currently is.  If I was really interested in the new format, I would dive into the MPT issue by doing some of them.   But as busy as I am with the work I currently have, I'm not really that interested.

I read in the latest edition of the California Bar eJournal that one of the motivating factors for the change was cost.  The new format will save the State Bar about $1.1 million dollars annually.  I can't imagine though that this was the primary reason for the change (but I could be wrong!)

Another reason given was that they wanted to put California in line with the other state's bar exams. Someone commented that this would reduce the "rigorous" nature of the exam, and the reply was that it is not intended to be an endurance test, but simply a minimum competency test for knowledge of the law.  I suppose this is valid, and I'm sure the reason some of the people have failed was that they were burned out by the third day.

Some of my peers have already been talking about how they are going to needle people who pass the "easy two-day" bar exam, while "real lawyers" had to pass the "horrible, no good, very rotten" three-day exam.  But knowing these people as I do, all of this will be done with a sense of humor.

Personally, I don't think it would make a difference which version of the exam I was taking.  But with all of the conspiracy theories surrounding the exam, I know I would be distracted by the thought of all the ways the State Bar could make the new format even more difficult.

It's all theoretical though until July 2017.  We should begin to get a picture of the new testing requirements during the preparation period leading up to July 2017, and then everyone will be curious to see the Released Answers.  And, of course, the pass rate.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Poobah Cat!

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Wise Pooba Cat -

There has been a lot of press recently about the historically low bar passage rates across many different states. Any view on that, or what is driving that, PC? Your insight is much valued and appreciated by your feline followers.

The Grand Poobah said...

Hi BC,

Yeah, I've seen some of those stories. I've also read some comments by some older (read: long time practicing) attorneys who blame it on lowered admission requirements by some schools for their incoming students, allegedly in an effort to make more money (or some other completely irrelevant reason). :)

I've even read some comments by one attorney in particular who has made a habit of referencing me specifically (Shocked, I am!), as evidence to support his argument. He even includes a link to my blog when he makes these comments. What a cad!

I believe the real reason for the diminishing bar passage rates is much more complex than simply, "Law schools are admitting shitty students." That's too easy of an answer, and I can only imagine that some attorneys offer it as a way to boost their own feelings of superiority, or to overcome feelings of inferiority. Although the Occam's Razor theory leans in their favor. (Disclaimer: I'm not a psychologist. Neither do I play one on TV.)

I have a feeling that part of the reason are the recent changes to the subject matter being tested, particularly in California. I've also heard from recent test-takers that the NCBEX has changed the format of the MBEs. This argument, if you can call it that, seems reasonable because the NCBEX has been fiddling with the MBEs ever since it won its lawsuit against PMBR (

Regardless, I don't have much of an opinion on the subject because I've done very little research on it. I will, however, revisit it if I come across something that I feel sheds some (factual) light on the issue.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Pooba Cat!! Very insightful and very much appreciated. I hope all if well with you!!

Anjali Verma said...
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Gregor Renk said...

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