This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Winter 2021-2022 (Vol. 90, No. 4), pp. 14–15.

NCBE Celebrating 90 years logo

The Bar Examiner published its first issue in fall of 1931, the year of NCBE’s founding­—in many ways, the history of the magazine traces the history of its parent organization. A lot has changed in the intervening nine decades. Indeed, over 90 volumes, and hundreds of issues, the Bar Examiner has had several publication schedules. Originally put out monthly, it then switched to eight issues per year; World War II made publication “of necessity irregular,” as did the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021. A bimonthly scheduled followed, before the magazine settled into its current quarterly output. Thematic consistency also defines the magazine. To name just a few: what to test and how to test, including standardization and consolidation around NCBE’s multijurisdictional exams; questions of access to testing and the bar, broadly conceived; considerations regarding character and fitness; and, of course, NCBE’s role in it all. A comprehensive Bar Examiner retrospective could fill an entire issue on its own. For now, here is a selection of cover snapshots throughout the decades.

1931, 1941, and 1951 Bar Examiner covers side by side; simple designs with journal issue info and table of contents

1961, 1971, and 1981 Bar Examiner covers side by side; each cover has issue info and black/white photo of people from NCBE

1991, 2001, and 2011 Bar Examiner covers side by side. 1991: graphic of man marking large multiple choice sheet with pencil; 2001: photo of hopscotch layout in chalk; 2011: abstract image with warm colors


2021 Bar Examiner cover; scales of justice superimosed over multicolored background of facial silhouettes

This Conference wants to be of service to you. Its aim is the raising of the standards both as to knowledge of the law and fitness of character of those who are to become future members of the bar of this country.”

—Vol. 1, No. 1 (November 1931)

[I]t is in the best interest of legal education to require ultimate testing by an agency outside the law school.”

—Vol. 20, No. 1 (January 1951)

The conference exists to serve the admitting jurisdictions by producing state-of-the-art bar examination products, educating bar examiners on the art and science of bar admissions, conducting character and fitness investigations, and conducting and publishing research on topics of interest to the bar examining community, the bench, and the bar.”

—Vol. 70, No. 1 (February 2001)

Contact us to request a pdf file of the original article as it appeared in the print edition.

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