This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Spring 2023 (Vol. 92, No. 1), pp. 1–2. By Timothy Y. Wong
My best spring wishes to everyone from snowy Minnesota. As I write this in late March, those of us in the frozen north are still navigating snowbanks up to our eyes and ankle-deep potholes. Hopefully by the time you read this, winter will be a thing of the past, the potholes will have been filled, stadiums will resound with the sweet sounds of baseball, and tree buds and flowers will remind us that spring is the season of renewal, new energy, and optimism.
I am more than halfway through my year as NCBE chair, and the time has gone quickly. The chance to be more involved in the many aspects of bar admissions has provided me with additional insight into NCBE’s work and more opportunities to connect with our many stakeholders. It really is an amazing time for the bar admissions community as we look to the future, even as we tend to important work in the present.
NCBE continues to plan for the future. In March, three NCBE committees met in Atlanta for that purpose. The Implementation Steering Committee reviewed the status of the NextGen bar exam, and in particular reviewed the proposed Content Scope Outlines and plans for conducting NextGen field testing. NCBE staff and numerous volunteers working on this project have organized input from thousands of stakeholders and are turning concepts for an updated bar exam into reality. More needs to be done, but NCBE’s Board of Trustees remains confident that we are headed in the right direction and on pace for the first administration of the new exam in July 2026.
At that same time, NCBE’s Long Range Planning and Governance Committees also met. Those committees are tasked to examine our current bar admissions environment, look to the horizon to see what is coming, and help plan for the future direction and needs of NCBE and its Board, respectively. Topics included alternative pathways to admission, limited licensing of legal professionals, data protection, and the rapid evolution and development of artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT, along with the changes those developments may bring. These three meetings generated excellent discussion, and I left with optimism that, by working together, the bar admissions community can address future issues and leverage opportunities that come our way.
While building for the future, NCBE is always keeping an eye on the present. The articles in this issue of the Bar Examiner focus on topics that are relevant now and will continue to be important as we move forward. This is the annual statistics issue, which features jurisdiction exam and admission statistics for the February and July 2022 bar exams and national data on the MBE and MPRE. This issue includes an article on the joint project underway by NCBE’s Character and Fitness and Diversity and Inclusion Committees to review and make recommendations to NCBE’s Board of Trustees regarding changes to the NCBE Character and Fitness Application. It also includes an interview with the new Executive Director for the National Association for Law Placement, Nikia Gray. NCBE staff members write about understanding bar exam score distributions, which can help shed light on the MBE mean, and measurement bias as it relates to the bar exam. I trust you will find this issue to be interesting and informative.
Much of NCBE committees’ work also continues to focus on maintaining the excellence of NCBE products and services. In December 2022, NCBE gathered eight policy committees in one location over a three-day period, the first time it has scheduled all these committees to meet over the same few days. The Character and Fitness Investigations, Diversity and Inclusion, Communications and Outreach, Education, Multistate Essay Examination/Multistate Performance Test, Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, Technology, and Uniform Bar Examination Committees met with the main focus of addressing issues related to NCBE’s current services and test products, in addition to anticipating how those services and products may change as we evolve into the NextGen bar exam. Some of the topics addressed included the evaluation of the NCBE Character and Fitness Application currently underway (covered in this issue), continued development of educational content for bar examiners and administrators, promoting ongoing clear and regular communications with stakeholders, and planning for this year’s Annual Bar Admissions Conference. I found great value in gathering the eight committees to meet over the same few days, as it provided many opportunities for members of different committees to interact with one another and exchange ideas.
Even as we focus on our current work and look to the future, it is also important to remember and recognize our past. This issue of the Bar Examiner includes a remembrance of Don Funk. Don was Secretary-Treasurer and General Counsel for the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar and a member of NCBE’s Board of Trustees, serving as chair from 2007 to 2008. Don made many contributions to the bar admissions community, and his passing reminds us that the work we do now and in the future is only possible because of the foundational efforts of our predecessors.
With the dedication and hard work of the NCBE staff and the continued contributions of the many stakeholders to the bar admissions community, it is indeed a season where we can enjoy the present, and look to the future with excitement and optimism. Thank you all for the work you do to contribute to our profession.
Best wishes to all,
Timothy Y. Wong
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