Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Ohio Supreme Court Adopts Uniform Bar Examination

Following the unanimous recommendations of a 16-member task force appointed by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to study the Ohio bar exam, the Ohio Supreme Court announced today that it will join with more than 30 states and U.S. territories and begin using the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) beginning in July 2020. Under the Ohio Constitution, admission to the practice of law and regulation of the bar falls within the Court’s exclusive authority. The Court’s decision was unanimous.

“This is a monumental and hugely beneficial change for Ohio and the Ohio Bar,” said Chief Justice O’Connor.  “There are obviously some details we will be ironing out. But I am very pleased that all 16 members of the task force and my colleagues recognized the need to update and modernize our approach to the bar exam by taking advantage of the portable nature of UBE scores,” she said.

Many metropolitan areas in the United States now span multiple states boundaries. “Increasingly lawyers in Ohio have clients in other states, states along our borders and even across the nation. Our admissions systems have to recognize the growing demand that attorneys be admitted in multiple states without imposing monumental costs on young lawyers seeking to practice across state lines,” Chief Justice O’Connor noted. “We must recognize the challenges that a very mobile society present to us without discarding our responsibility to regulate the Ohio bar to the benefit of Ohio’s citizens,” she concluded.

Once implemented, the UBE will enable lawyers in other UBE states to transfer their exam scores to Ohio without sitting for another bar exam. Ohio lawyers passing the UBE here will be able to transfer their passing scores to other UBE states as well. D. Benjamin Barros, chair of the task force and Dean at the University of Toledo’s College of Law, said the task force was charged with “evaluating the efficacy and effectiveness of implementing the UBE as an alternative to the current Ohio bar exam in light of the fact that an increasing number of states and territories have moved to adopt the UBE.”

Verna Williams, Interim Dean at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law, who served as vice-chair of the task force noted that, “the UBE also means that Ohio’s law schools will remain competitive with the majority of states that have now adopted the UBE.” Williams noted, “It provides Ohio graduates with greater opportunities to practice law in other parts of the nation without the huge costs and time incurred when sitting for multiple bar exams.”

Although UBE scores are transferable, each UBE state retains authority to set the acceptable UBE passing score and candidates’ character and fitness qualifications. “Having a passing UBE score in one state does not automatically mean a person is admitted to the Ohio bar,” Gina Palmer, Director of Attorney Services at the Supreme Court, noted. “What it does mean is that qualified applicants from other UBE states can be admitted to Ohio without having to take another bar exam, provided they meet the Court’s passing standards and comply with all other requisites, including character and fitness requirements.”

Ohio will recognize acceptable UBE scores from other UBE states for five years post-examination. After that period, an attorney from another state would have to seek admission to the Ohio bar on motion to the Supreme Court.

The UBE is a two-day test comprised of three components prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Ohio was already using two of the three components of the UBE, the Multistate Bar Exam and the Multistate Performance Test. Ohio will now use the Multistate Essay Exam in place of the Ohio essay questions.