This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Summer 2023 (Vol. 92, No. 2), pp. 3–4.By Judith A. Gundersen
Moving Forward and Looking Back: NextGen and Leadership Transitions
Our NCBE team’s commitment to the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and its component parts, the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), is stronger than ever even as some staff (old and new) are turning their focus to the NextGen bar exam. It is no small feat to transition into a new exam program while current UBE components demand and deserve the full attention of our staff and outside volunteer drafters and reviewers. Multiple NCBE departments—Test Operations, Assessment and Research, Information Technology, Meetings and Events, and Communications, Education, and Outreach—are working on both exam programs. Some department staff also work on both programs; others work exclusively on one or the other.
We were very excited to release some NextGen sample questions on July 11, including an integrated question set and several multiple-choice questions (MCQs) (some of which will be similar to current MBE questions and others that will look a little different). We plan to release more sample questions as they work their way through field testing. The new version of the MPT, the PT60—a closed-universe skills test with short-answer, multiple-choice, and longer constructed-response questions—is under development and set to be field tested in early 2024, with samples to follow at a later date.
In late May we published the Bar Exam Content Scope. This “final” version was the result of a two-year-plus iterative process involving receiving and analyzing public comments, drafting committee review, Content Scope Committee input, and then final decision making by the Implementation Steering Committee, assisted by NCBE NextGen lawyer-editor staff. More about the process and the material released can be found here. I put “final” in quotes because, like our current test specifications, NextGen content specifications will undergo periodic review by policy and drafting experts to ensure they capture the state of the law and reflect the knowledge needed to obtain a general license to practice. This process mirrors the extensive research NCBE conducted starting in 2018 and leading to the development of the NextGen exam.
Transitions, Good-Byes, and Thank-Yous at NCBE
Summer is a particularly busy time at NCBE with the July bar exam, August MPRE administration at Pearson Vue Centers, character and fitness investigation deadlines, and our own leadership transition at the Board and policy committee levels. Our annual meeting, held jointly with that of the Council of Bar Admission Administrators (CBAA), takes place in August. Both organizations’ respective leaderships transition at this meeting.
I’d like to express my gratitude to Tim Wong of Minnesota, who will complete his year of service as our Board of Trustees chair. Tim has been a great leader for NCBE and our Board and will continue to be one as he steps into the role of immediate past chair. He is collaborative, creative, inclusive, and proactive. He always encourages everyone to be their best selves. I met Tim years ago when he was a bar exam grader. He then became chair of the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners. Throughout his service to NCBE, he has been chair of virtually every committee; he also currently serves on the NextGen Implementation Steering Committee. He has made immeasurable contributions. I am so proud to have been able to work with him for the past 20-plus years.
Stepping into Tim’s role is John McAlary, who is the Executive Director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners. John has decades of bar admissions experience leading the most populous US jurisdiction for admissions. He has chaired the Council of Bar Admission Administrators (CBAA) and, like Tim, has led many NCBE committees during his Board service. He comes well prepared to lead NCBE at this important time in our history. The depth and breadth of administrative and candidate-focused experience he brings to the role will be invaluable. John is already well underway to inviting volunteers to serve on NCBE committees and giving these committees specific goals for his year as chair. I very much look forward to working with him.
In terms of good-byes, Sue Richards of Ohio officially leaves the Board after having served this past year as immediate past chair. Sue will, however, retain an important role working on the revisions to the NCBE Character and Fitness Application. I thank you, Sue, for your continued valuable work on this multiyear endeavor.
I also offer my congratulations and deep thanks to Jeff Shipley, CBAA chair and Secretary and Director of the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners. Jeff has led the CBAA group during an important time as it discusses NextGen, considers possible changes to the character and fitness questions, and welcomes new administrators across the country. With or without the chair “hat” atop his head, Jeff is a leader among administrators.
Following Jeff as chair is Christine Kenefick, Deputy Executive Director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners. Christine’s experience managing accommodations (among her other roles) in the largest testing jurisdiction and her active participation in past CBAA programming will be invaluable as she leads the Council. We look forward to working with Christine.
As we start our new year, I also want to thank all our current and former volunteers who serve on committees focused on the profession and admissions. Your participation ensures that we have broad perspectives and input from stakeholders. We are indebted to you.
Until the next issue,
Judith A. Gundersen
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