The Task Force on the Texas Bar Examination issued its report to the Texas Supreme Court on May 16, including a recommendation that the state adopt the Uniform Bar Examination.
The task force recommended the Uniform Bar Examination, or UBE, but rejected the “diploma privilege” that would allow Texas law school graduates to practice law in the state without taking a bar exam.
The task force recommended the adoption of the UBE for its utility to law graduates who might want to practice in several jurisdictions without retaking bar exams in each.
The report said, “Examinees who score well enough on the UBE become eligible for admission by examination to the bar in every jurisdiction in which the UBE has been adopted.”
The UBE is used by more than half of the U.S. It has been adopted by 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While unanimously rejecting the full diploma privilege for any law school or law school graduates, the task force did encourage Texas law schools to develop alternative licensing programs.
Other recommendations from the task force include:
• If the UBE is adopted, the Multistate Essay Exam should replace Texas essays. The task force suggests supplementing the UBE with a Texas law component, consisting of a Texas Law Exam to be administered online following the completion of, or in conjunction with, an online Texas law course.
• If the UBE is adopted, the number of essays would be reduced from 12 to six by adoption of the Multistate Essay Exam. If the UBE is not adopted, the task force still recommends reducing the number of essays from 12 to six.
• If the UBE is adopted, the equivalent passing score should be 270. If it is not adopted, the Texas Bar Exam passing score should remain at 675. In either occurrence, the task force recommends the Supreme Court consider a standard-setting study to determine whether the passing score meets a standard of minimum competence to practice law. (A list of minimum passing UBE scores can be found here).
• If the current Texas Bar Exam is retained without change, the task force recommends that the current scoring system should be continued. The task force found that no internal evidence demonstrated that the exam was not performing as intended.
As a result of concerns about the Multistate Bar Exam, the principal Texas Bar Exam component, and their bearings on recent bar-passage rates, the task force proposed an independent study of Texas Bar Exam scores. However, issues with the availability of relevant data from Texas law schools, the National Conference of Bar Examiners—the group behind the UBE—and the Board of Law Examiners remained unresolved, and the task force concluded an independent study could not be carried out.
The Supreme Court created the task force in June 2016 to answer questions about across-the-board declines in bar exam passage rates across the country. The task force, which was led by St. Mary’s University School of Law Dean Stephen M. Sheppard, also included SMU Dedman School of Law Dean Jennifer M. Collins, the University of Texas School of Law Dean Ward Farnsworth, Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law Dean Dannye Holley, Baylor Law School Dean Bradley J.B. Toben, Texas Tech University School of Law Professor Cassie Christopher, Chief Justice Jeff Rose of the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas Board of Law Examiners chair Harold “Al” Odom, Texas Board of Law Examiners vice chair Augustin “Augie” Rivera Jr., Texas Board of Law Examiners member C. Alfred Mackenzie, Dallas attorney Beverly B. Godbey, and Dallas attorney Rebekah Steely Brooker. The Supreme Court liaison to the task force was Justice Jeff Brown.