Home » Kentucky Supreme Court announces revised bar exam starts July 2027

Kentucky Supreme Court announces revised bar exam starts July 2027

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky law students sitting for the bar exam will take a different exam than the one currently in use starting in July 2027. The Supreme Court of Kentucky recently voted to be an early adopter of the NextGen exam being developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

NextGen will replace the Uniform Bar Examination that Kentucky has been using since February 2021. While the UBE focuses on memorization of doctrinal law, the new exam will concentrate on skills-based knowledge.

“After spending a great deal of time learning about the new exam, I am confident it is the way forward for law student education and testing,” Chief Justice of the Commonwealth Laurance B. VanMeter said. “A bar exam’s purpose is to ensure law school graduates are prepared to serve their clients, and the updated exam is being designed to hit that mark.

“The UBE has been serving Kentucky well, as demonstrated by the caliber of our legal practitioners. This new approach will ensure that aspiring attorneys have the level of competence we require of those who provide legal advice and services to the public.”

The NCBE develops bar exam content for 54 of 56 U.S. jurisdictions and provides the current UBE. Seven other jurisdictions have announced their intent to adopt NextGen, which will be available in July 2026. They are Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon and Wyoming. The NCBE plans to eventually discontinue the current UBE.

The highest court in each jurisdiction, which is the Supreme Court in Kentucky, has authority over the admission of attorneys to practice in its courts, aided by its own bar admissions agency.

Designed to reflect the work performed by newly licensed attorneys, the NextGen exam will test nine areas of legal doctrine: civil procedure, contract law, evidence, torts, business associations, constitutional law, criminal law, real property and family law. The exam will cover seven foundational lawyering skills: legal research, legal writing, issue spotting and analysis, investigation and evaluation, client counseling and advising, negotiation and dispute resolution, and client relationship and management. Tenets of attorney ethics will be tested in conjunction with other topics and skills. For detailed outlines of the legal doctrine and skills that will be tested, visit kcoj.info/NextGenExam.

The subjects and skills for testing were developed during a multiyear, nationwide legal practice analysis focused on the most important knowledge and skills for newly licensed attorneys, which the NCBE defines as those in their first three years in practice.

As with the current bar exam, the NextGen exam will be administered, and the written portions graded, by the individual U.S. jurisdictions. In the commonwealth, this is the Kentucky Board of Bar Examiners. The exam will be administered over one-and-a-half days, with six hours of testing on day one and three hours on day two. This is shorter than the time required for the current exam, which is administered in 12 hours over two days.

Attorney-hopefuls will continue taking the UBE until July 2027. The board offers the exam twice a year – once in February and again in July.

“On behalf of the Board of Bar Examiners, I very much appreciate the court’s deliberative process and leadership decision,” said attorney Dustin Meek, chair of the Kentucky Board of Bar Examiners. “I suspect Kentucky law schools will be pleased to learn that current first-year law students will be tested under the existing UBE format and NextGen curriculum preparations may begin with fall 2024 students.”

The Supreme Court is the state court of last resort and the final interpreter of Kentucky law. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all seven justices rule on appeals that come before the court. The justices are elected from seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. A chief justice, chosen for a four-year term by fellow justices, is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Supreme Court may order a ruling or opinion to be published, which means that the ruling becomes the case law governing all similar cases in the future in Kentucky.

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