Task Force Suggests Changes to Bar Exam

, New York Law Journal

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ALBANY - Law graduates taking the New York State bar exam in 2015 had better be schooled in aspects of administrative law but they will not need to be experts on Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which covers obligations and procedures of negotiable instruments such as checks or notes.

Changes to the exam were mentioned in a report issued Wednesday by the New York City Bar Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, which among things, urged the Board of Law Examiners and the New York Court of Appeals to consider further proposals to reform the bar exam and lawyer accreditation process.

The task force suggested that the board consider reducing "the prolonged period" between an applicant taking the exam and gaining admission to the bar, and revisions to New York-specific components of the exam to test substantive law and legal practice skills such as complex problem-solving and project management.

It also supported expanded access to bar exam prep materials to decrease the cost of bar preparation and further reduction in the number of areas of law tested on the New York section of the bar exam.

"Testing applicants on breadth of knowledge of New York law rather than depth does not reflect the practical realities of legal practice," the report said.

It said the city bar will convene a working group to evaluate these and other potential changes to the way New York state tests the qualifications of those seeking a license in New York.

The switch to including administrative law substantive changes to the bar exam were approved by the board on the recommendation of lawyers, law school officials and others and are in keeping with the panel's job of making sure each lawyer admitted to practice "demonstrates minimum competence to practice law," said John McAlary, executive director of the Albany-based Board of Law Examiners.

He said revisions to the content outline will be posted on the Board of Examiners' website in the next few weeks.

Questions on administrative law were once included on the bar exam but were dropped about 15 years ago, McAlary said.

"It is the one subject that I now receive the most comments about from the bar and professors, asking me why we don't test it," McAlary said. "If you are dealing with any government agency, there is administrative law involved in it. And no matter where you are in the state, if you are a lawyer in a small- to mid-sized firm or even a large one, you will have lawyers who will have administrative law issues that come up all the time."

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