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The Uniform Bar Examination Is Coming to Texas

A preliminary look at what will be covered.

By Susan Henricks


The Texas Bar Examination has been unchanged in form and substance for the past two decades. In February 2021, the existing exam will be replaced by the Uniform Bar Examination, or UBE, and Texas will join 34 other U.S. jurisdictions in simultaneously administering an identical examination. Scores earned on the UBE in Texas will be accepted among all participating jurisdictions.

For prospective Texas lawyers, a UBE score will widen employment prospects and facilitate multistate practices. Although every jurisdiction determines the UBE score required for admission in that jurisdiction, any applicant with an adequate score may qualify for admission in a UBE jurisdiction without repeating a bar examination. Since 2011, more than 100,000 applicants have earned UBE scores, and more than 13,000 UBE scores have been transferred to another UBE jurisdiction.

By its October 2018 order, the Texas Supreme Court invited public comment on adoption of the UBE. The court’s action followed the recommendation announced in the May 2018 report of the Supreme Court Task Force on the Texas Bar Examination. The task force began its review of the Texas Bar Examination in June 2016 and made its recommendation after two years of study. Public commentary submitted to the Texas Supreme Court on the UBE proposal weighed heavily in favor of UBE adoption. Only one respondent objected to adoption of the UBE.

Thirty percent of the UBE will differ from the current Texas Bar Examination content. The 15-hour Texas Bar Examination is now administered over 2 1/2 days. The UBE is a 12-hour test spanning two consecutive days. Both examinations include the Multistate Bar Examination, a 200-item multiple-choice examination adopted by Texas in 1974. Both examinations include the Multistate Performance Test, but the UBE includes two MPT components whereas the existing Texas Bar Examination includes only one. The move to the UBE will eliminate the current 12 Texas Essays and the 40-item Procedure and Evidence sections. The UBE tests general legal principles on eight law topics, including U.S. constitutional law and federal procedure and evidence. The UBE includes six Multistate Essay questions, instead of the 12 Texas Essays. The UBE content is the same across all participating jurisdictions and the examination is administered semi-annually on the same dates nationwide. Although several state-specific topics, such as oil and gas law, will be eliminated under the UBE, only one new topic—conflict of laws—not now covered on the Texas Bar Examination will be added to the subjects tested. The UBE will continue to be administered in February and July, and the proposed passing score is 270, which is mathematically equivalent to the current passing score of 675.

To ensure that newly licensed Texas lawyers are familiar with our state law, the court has directed the Texas Board of Law Examiners to create and administer a separate Texas Law Component on selected Texas law topics. The content of this component has not been finally determined but is likely to cover the following Texas law topic areas: civil procedure; family law and marital property; real property law; oil and gas law; administrative law; consumer law; legal ethics; wills, trusts, and guardianships; employment law; criminal law and procedure; and the Texas judicial system. The Texas Law Component will most likely include a series of lectures available online. The cost to applicants for completing the Texas Law Component, if any, has not been determined.

Before the UBE is offered in Texas for the first time in February 2021, applicants for admission to the Texas Bar will have the option of taking the UBE in another jurisdiction and transferring a score of 270 or better to satisfy the examination requirement. The Board of Law Examiners will begin accepting UBE transfer applications on December 1, 2019. A transferred UBE score that is obtained more than two years but less than five years before the date of an application to Texas may be used to qualify for admission if the applicant has been engaged in the active and substantial practice of law during two of the past three years. Out-of-state attorneys with or without a UBE score may be eligible for admission if they have been actively and substantially engaged in practice during five of the past seven years, just as before adoption of the UBE. A previous failing score on the Texas Bar Examination will no longer be an impediment to admission without examination because the Texas Bar Examination will no longer be offered in its present form. Applicants will be allowed five attempts to pass the UBE, including examinations taken in other jurisdictions. All out-of-state applicants will also be required to complete the Texas Law Component. All applicants must still obtain a score of 85 or better on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, or MPRE. This MPRE requirement has been in place since 1984.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, or NCBE, a nonprofit organization that provides testing and investigation services to state bar examiners, is the sponsor of the UBE. The NCBE organizes subject-matter experts from all 50 states who draft the questions and grading guidelines for the UBE examination materials. More information about the UBE, along with study materials, practice examinations, and content outlines, may be found on the NCBE website, ncbex.org. Information about the Texas Law Component, applications, and rules for the Texas Bar Examination will be found on the Texas Board of Law Examiners website, ble.texas.gov.TBJ

 

MINIMUM PASSING UBE SCORE BY JURISDICTION
UBE State Scores

National Conference of Bar Examiners 12/4/18

 


TRANSITION TO UBE FROM TEXAS BAR EXAMINATION

Examination Topics

TBE Topics
MBE
• Federal Civil Procedure
• Evidence (federal)
• Constitutional law
• Real property
• Contracts
• Torts
• Criminal law and procedure

Texas Essays
• Business associations
• Trusts and guardianships
• Wills and administration
• Family law
• Uniform Commercial Code
• Consumer rights
• Real property, including oil and gas
• Federal tax (crossover)
• Bankruptcy (crossover)

Procedure & Evidence
• Texas Civil Procedure
• Texas Rules of Evidence
• Texas Code of Criminal Procedure
• Texas criminal law

UBE TOPICS
MBE
• Federal civil procedure
• Evidence (federal)
• Constitutional law
• Real property
• Contracts
• Torts
• Criminal law and procedure

MEE
• Business associations
• Trusts and estates
(includes wills and administration)
• Family law
• Secured transactions
• Real property
• Conflict of laws (crossover)
• Contracts
• Torts
• Constitutional law
• Federal civil procedure
• Criminal law and procedure
• Evidence (federal)

 

HenricksSUSAN HENRICKS
is the executive director of the Texas Board of Law Examiners, the agency responsible for investigating and qualifying applicants for admission to the State Bar of Texas and administering the Texas Bar Examination. Before assuming those duties in 2015, she practiced administrative law and civil litigation in Austin. She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.

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