Nine States To Adopt NextGen Bar Exam, But Is It Enough to Address Licensure Disparities?

Nine States To Adopt NextGen Bar Exam, But Is It Enough to Address Licensure Disparities?

As nine states have committed to adopting the NextGen bar exam, diploma privilege remains the best alternative path to licensure for law school graduates.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners recently unveiled plans to replace the current bar exam with their NextGen exam, which aims to better assess skills relevant to legal practice. According to the NCBE, the new exam was developed over several years with input from 15,000 legal professionals.

States that have committed to adopting the NextGen exam include Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Connecticut. These states will administer the new exam starting in July 2026 or July 2027.

While the NCBE says the NextGen exam matches the realities of legal work more closely, it does not go far enough in reforming bar exam requirements.

Bar exams in general fail to accurately measure competence and disproportionately prevent the licensure of marginalized groups. Stressful high-stakes exams do not reflect how well graduates can actually practice law.

Diploma privilege grants a license to practice law automatically to any graduate in good standing of an accredited state law school. Wisconsin, Washington, and Utah currently have some form of diploma privilege.

Law school itself ensures graduates are qualified, and graduates deserve to use their extensive legal educations, not gamble their careers on a single test.

While the NextGen exam promises minor improvements, it does not solve the fundamental problems with bar exams. Only replacing exams altogether with a system focused on competency can ensure access to justice and opportunity for all.

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