If you’re a big fan of hating on the annual lawyer hazing ritual known as the bar exam because it doesn’t actually test the skills you need to be successful as a lawyer, your days are numbered. That’s because last year, the National Conference of Bar Examiners — the folks who write the Multistate Bar Exam — announced they were launching the NextGen Bar Exam, which will focus on knowledge and skills rather than rote memorization. Left on the cutting room floor will be the Multistate Bar Examination, the Multistate Essay Examination, and the Multistate Performance Test. Huzzah!
The NextGen exam is still on track for its 2026 launch, but that doesn’t mean every jurisdiction is going to launch the new test then. As reported by Reuters, during a temporary transition period, states will have the option to get on board with the test of the future or to slow play the roll out of the test.
Offering two exams for a “limited period of time” will give states time to adjust, conference president Judith Gundersen told legal educators during the Association of American Law Schools’ annual meeting.
While it isn’t clear exactly how long the transition will be, Gundersen said it is likely less than five years from the NextGen launch. State courts and bar examiners will make the decision about when to transition to the new exam.
Conference leaders have already begun meeting with officials in individual states to discuss implementing the new test, though none have yet announced their adoption for the July 2026 administration. Gundersen said courts and attorney admissions offices have said they want to make that decision early in order to give students and law schools plenty of time to prepare for whichever test they will use.
The first sample NextGen questions will be released later this year, and a prototype exam will be available in 2024.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.