This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Summer 2023 (Vol. 92, No. 2), pp. 1–2. By Timothy Y. Wong
With this column, I mark the end of my year serving as chair of the NCBE Board of Trustees. When I joined the Board in 2015 it seemed like my year as chair would never arrive, and now it has come and gone so quickly.
The Chinese have a saying: “May you live in interesting times.” For those of us involved in bar admissions, it is indeed a most interesting time. We are seeing evolution and changes as jurisdictions examine various options for admission to the practice of law. The profession continues to wrestle with important issues such as access to justice, improving diversity so the profession looks more like the communities it serves, and student debt—all while remaining vigilant about practices that further the goal of public protection. Through it all, I have been amazed and inspired by the people I have met who contribute to NCBE’s efforts to sustain and improve the bar admissions process. As I reflect on the past year, the one word that comes to mind is gratitude.
I am grateful to the talented people working on developing the NextGen bar exam, a further step in the evolution of the bar exam that I believe will be transformational, much as the Uniform Bar Exam was in 2011. I have had the opportunity to serve on the NextGen Implementation Steering Committee in addition to serving as NCBE chair this year and have seen firsthand all the work involved in this endeavor. Spoiler alert: it takes a lot of time, talent, and effort to create a new bar exam. The process has been challenging, but the NCBE team continues to persevere.
In late May, NCBE published the Content Scope Outlines. In July, it released an initial batch of sample questions. Pilot testing is complete, with field testing on the horizon, and item drafting is underway. NCBE will continue to seek feedback from stakeholders and partner with jurisdictions to make the NextGen bar exam a reality. I am thankful to the volunteers and staff involved in this project and am so impressed with what they have accomplished, mindful that there is more work to be done.
I am also grateful for the chance to have worked with NCBE’s talented staff. Every one of them is dedicated to NCBE’s mission of promoting “fairness, integrity, and best practices in admission to the legal profession for the benefit and protection of the public” and is committed to achieve its vision of “a competent, ethical, and diverse legal profession.” They achieve this by consistent hard work, adherence to the science supporting high-stakes testing, reliance on data to support decisions, and a dedication to serving stakeholders. While I have been involved with NCBE, I have seen the outstanding leadership provided by NCBE president Judy Gundersen, and Erica Moeser before her; both set a high standard of excellence, marked by collaboration and service. That standard permeates the entire organization and is reflected in the kindness, patience, and level of service each NCBE employee shows.
But most of all, it has been a privilege to meet so many of you—the volunteers, bar admission administrators, law school faculty and administrators, and jurisdiction board members and judges who work together to make this all possible. When I started as a bar exam grader in Minnesota, I had no idea of the vast network of dedicated people involved in bar admissions. I have enjoyed working beside you on committees and sharing ideas at conferences and meetings. I hope you have found, as I have, that the investment of your time and talent has been repaid tenfold in the friendships, education, and satisfaction you have received as part of the bar admissions community.
My colleague and friend John McAlary, Executive Director for the New York State Board of Law Examiners, takes over from here as he steps in as NCBE Board chair for the coming year. He brings vast experience to the role, and I look forward to great things from the organization under his Board leadership. I hope all of you in the bar admissions community will stay involved and engaged as NCBE continues to move forward. Thank you for all you do, and for allowing me to be part of it.
Best wishes to all,
Timothy Y. Wong
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