THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF by pengtt

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									                                                   ESSAYS ON
                 THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF
               THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF
                      BAR EXAMINERS
         On the occasion of the National Conference’s 75th Anniversary, we asked many of those who have had longstanding
      associations with and some who have more recently become acquainted with the organization to give us their thoughts on
             its history, its current state, or its future. What follows are the essays of those who accepted our invitations.


                                                                      contacts with the administrators. Thus while both
     BAR ADMISSIONS                                                   bar examiners and bar administrators were involved
     CONTINUING EDUCATION                                             in each jurisdiction’s bar admission process, the
     FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST                                             exchange of information between these two larger
                                                                      groups was incidental at best.
     CENTURY
                                                                          This tenuous interaction between the NCBE
     by Bedford T. Bentley, Jr.
                                                                      Board, mostly composed of bar examiners and for-
     In the last fifteen years, the National Conference of            mer bar examiners, and bar administrators was
     Bar Examiners has reinvented itself through the                  reformed through the leadership of the Board in the
     strong leadership of its Board and staff, the steady             early 1990s. The Board’s recognition of the promi-
     enhancement of its testing and character and fitness             nent role of administrators in the admissions process
     products, and the expansion of other services it pro-            was reflected in the hiring of a former administrator
     vides to the bar examining community. One facet                  to serve as president of the Conference, the creation
     of this robust preparation for and bold advance                  of a regular position on the Board for a representa-
     into the twenty-first century is the Conference’s                tive of the administrators, and the routine appoint-
     development of continuing education programs for                 ment of administrators to participate in and even
     bar examiners and administrators.                                chair National Conference committees. The full inte-
         In the era preceding the current renascence, the             gration of administrators into the Conference’s poli-
     Conference’s educational offerings consisted of a                cy setting and operations has been fruitful and a
     biennial seminar for new bar examiners and the bar               major factor in the Conference’s revitalization.
     administrators’ meetings three times a year (with
                                                                          The Conference’s renewal has been manifested
     minimal involvement of bar examiners in the admin-
                                                                      in a number of ways, but two areas stand out. One
     istrators’ meetings). The Conference’s policy and test
                                                                      is the addition of a number of staff positions which
     development committees were composed of NCBE
                                                                      has given the Conference exceptional capabilities
     Board members and bar examiners and had minimal
                                                                      in testing and research, in the employment of new




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
technology, and in meeting planning and organiza-                                         BEDFORD T. BENTLEY, JR. has
                                                                                          been the bar admissions ad-
tion. The second is the application of these staff capa-                                  ministrator in Maryland for
bilities to the Conference’s educational offerings.                                       nearly 20 years; he has chaired
                                                                                          the Conference’s Minority
    The long-running biennial seminar for new bar                                         (Diversity) Issues Committee
                                                                                          and currently serves as a mem-
examiners has been redesigned with educational                                            ber of its Editorial Advisory
offerings for experienced as well as new bar examin-                                      Committee.

ers and administrators. The seminar topics range
across the spectrum of issues affecting bar admis-                                        tion. This initiative has
sions, including examination standard setting, scal-                                      been increasingly suc-
ing, and grading; character and fitness investigations                                    cessful and informs the
and hearings in all their rich variation; testing          supreme courts that there is a reliable and authorita-
accommodations under the Americans with Disabil-           tive repository for the most current information
ities Act (ADA); and finer-grained attention to topics     about bar admission issues that many jurisdictions
of special interest, such as minority performance on       have in common.
the bar examination. The current approach to pre-
                                                               In alternate years, when the biennial seminar is
senting the mathematics of score combining is a use-
                                                           not offered, the Conference has added a topic-
ful illustration of how things have changed. The
                                                           oriented seminar to focus in depth on a subject of
Conference’s testing and research staff members now
                                                           widely shared interest. These alternate-year confer-
provide lucid explications of the complexities of psy-
                                                           ences frequently have included presenters from out-
chometrics, having the advantage of firsthand
                                                           side the bar admissions community whose experi-
knowledge of the concerns of bar examiners and
                                                           ences are relevant. For example, representatives of
administrators as a consequence of daily interactions
                                                           the Law School Admission Council and the National
with them. With familiar (and friendly) faces at the
                                                           Board of Medical Examiners have shared their expe-
podium, bar examiners and administrators are more
                                                           riences with evaluating requests for accommoda-
inclined to pose the burning questions about statis-
                                                           tions pursuant to the ADA. A representative of the
tics, which everyone has always been dying to ask
                                                           National Council of State Boards of Nursing
but refrained from asking for fear of being further
                                                           described the process used for implementing com-
perplexed by the answer or revealing the deep igno-
                                                           puter adaptive testing for the national nurses’ licens-
rance which everyone else in the room was silently
                                                           ing examination.
sharing. The answers now provided are carefully
articulated, clear, and elaborated upon as necessary           Another Conference innovation is the creation of
to satisfy the last lost soul.                             “mini-seminars,” in subjects such as technology,
                                                           character and fitness, and testing, which have per-
    A concerted effort to attract state supreme court
                                                           mitted small groups of administrators to delve inten-
justices to these annual seminars has resulted in a
                                                           sively into matters directly applicable to their daily
new forum for promoting greater engagement of
                                                           operations and planning for modernization. As with
the policy makers in the bar admissions conversa-
                                                           the larger seminars, these meetings, held at the




                                                                            ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY     
     Conference headquarters, provide participants the        with a fellow attorney about golf, someone came up
     opportunity to compare notes and exchange ideas on       to congratulate him on his interview on the Rush
     best practices and problem solving.                      Limbaugh radio program. On the golf course the
                                                              following morning, my friend explained that he was
         Two other examples of innovation are the
                                                              the Examiner for Constitutional Law for the
     administrators’ restricted portal on the Conference’s
                                                              Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on Bar
     website (which provides an electronic home for the
                                                              Admissions and that in one of the essay questions on
     administrators’ newsletter, meeting information, and
                                                              the most recent examination, he had included a
     several other helpful resources) and the administra-
                                                              veiled reference to Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh’s staff
     tors’ electronic mailing list, which has been invalu-
                                                              had called to ask him to appear on the show and dis-
     able for obtaining rapid answers to vexing questions
                                                              cuss the question.
     and means to avoid reinventing the wheel.
                                                                  Several holes later, I queried him about his role
         Last, but by no means least, is THE BAR EXAMINER,
                                                              as an Examiner. He explained in detail his duties
     the Conference’s periodical, which is widely distrib-
                                                              and responsibilities. He also explained that the pri-
     uted and read within the bar admissions community.
                                                              mary grading of the bar examination was conducted
     THE BAR EXAMINER articles now come from a broader
                                                              by Assistant Examiners and that the Louisiana
     spectrum of contributors than before, and its regular
                                                              Supreme Court granted six hours of continuing legal
     columns have become more informative because of
                                                              education for the effort. By the end of the round, I
     the contributions by the in-house specialists in test-
                                                              had convinced him that I would happily serve as an
     ing and research.
                                                              Assistant Examiner if more were needed.
         This is a quick survey of some of the vehicles
                                                                  Several weeks later, I received an order from the
     used by the Conference to afford the bar admissions
                                                              Louisiana Supreme Court naming me as an Assistant
     community first-rate continuing education. The last
                                                              Examiner and requiring me to send a letter of accept-
     fifteen years in the Conference’s long history has
                                                              ance to the clerk of the supreme court within 10 days.
     been a golden age of accomplishment and advance-
                                                              My secretary questioned the letter to the state
     ment in the art and science of determining which
                                                              supreme court; after hearing my explanation, she
     candidates are worthy to enjoy the privilege of prac-
                                                              rolled her eyes and reminded me that I mainly prac-
     ticing law.
                                                              ticed as a maritime lawyer.

     GOLF, HURRICANES,                                            She also said that she felt sorry for the applicants
                                                              whose papers I was grading when those papers
     AND THE NATIONAL                                         arrived at my office for grading. I had second
     CONFERENCE                                               thoughts about volunteering for this duty when she
                                                              handed me the stack of papers. Not to worry, I
     by Dan Webb
                                                              thought as I sat down to read the three questions that
     My introduction to the National Conference can be
                                                              I was to grade. Reading them, however, was a real
     traced to Louisiana golf courses. In early 1990, I
                                                              wake-up call! I felt much better after I found the
     attended a party in New Orleans. While I was talking



   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
grading guidelines which highlighted and gave a full                                       DAN WEBB is a former chair of
                                                                                           and a former director of charac-
background discussion of each of the issues.                                               ter and fitness for the Louisiana
                                                                                           Supreme Court Committee on
    Back on the golf course, I acknowledged to my                                          Bar Admissions.
friend that I had started grading the papers and that
I was most grateful for his comprehensive grading                                          someone “Banker” and
guidelines. He explained to me that since not many                                         someone “Holder” when
attorneys practiced Constitutional Law he felt it nec-                                     drafting a commercial
essary to have a back-to-basics “poop sheet” for his                                       transaction question.
Assistant Examiners. When my final grades were
submitted to the Committee, my initial involvement                                              I also learned that

in the bar admissions process was over. Reflecting          the grading procedure for the Louisiana Bar

back on those efforts, I had no idea at the time that the   Examination needed fine tuning. I was most im-

National Conference of Bar Examiners even existed.          pressed with the presenter when we were asked to
                                                            practice grading sample answers using different
    Flash forward four years, again to the golf             grading methods.
course. My friend told me that his term as the
Constitutional Law Examiner was ending shortly                  I left Chicago determined to learn more and

and that he needed to find a replacement. He lobbied        committed to improving our examination process. I

pretty hard and finally convinced me to throw my            am happy to report that we are still working to

name in the pot.                                            improve it. The testing staff at NCBE has been with
                                                            us every step of the way.
    When I was appointed by the supreme court to
the position of Examiner, I set about drafting my first         After surviving several bar exams as Louisiana’s

essay questions and soon learned what a difficult           Constitutional Law Examiner, I was asked to take

task I had signed on for. I welcomed a suggestion           over the position of director of character and fitness.

that I attend a meeting of the National Conference in       Luckily, I was already at the time scheduled to attend

Chicago, especially after I learned that most of the        a second NCBE meeting. This provided a sound base

Saturday morning program was devoted to writing             for learning my new position and for convincing our

and grading essay exams.                                    chair that we needed to ratchet up our process to
                                                            ensure that our applicants could demonstrate the
    At the opening reception I was impressed with           requisite character and fitness to practice. We were
the warm welcome I received from all of the “veter-         certain the best tool would be to utilize the resources
ans.” It was also great to learn that Erica Moeser, the     of the NCBE investigation services. This certainty
NCBE president, had a significant connection to             was confirmed by a follow-up trip to Chicago where
New Orleans. From that first meeting, I felt like I had     we tracked an application through the entire process.
been taken on by more experienced examiners as a            We were able to take that information to our court
challenging project. I likely confirmed that status         and today our jurisdiction is one of the largest users
when I argued with the person teaching the exam-            of NCBE investigation services.
writing session that it was unrealistic to name



                                                                             ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY       
          When I was asked to serve as chair of our           able resource by providing ideas for best practices in
      Committee I did so knowing that when there were         every area of bar admissions.
      any difficulties, I had an excellent resource to rely
                                                                  My contact with NCBE began in 1978 at the
      upon. Erica Moeser can attest to my many telephone
                                                              annual meeting in New York City. I met such CBAA
      calls for information, support, advice, and some-
                                                              luminaries as Ellen Sterritt, Ben Estes, and Jim
      times comfort.
                                                              Tippin. These folks (among others) became my men-
          After my term, the new chair was met with an        tors—people who had seen all the problems and had
      unprecedented nightmare of what to do about the         all the answers (or at least good ideas for dealing
      possibility that hundreds of exams might have been      with the problems). Over almost thirty years the
      lost to the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina and the   mentors have changed, and have included folks
      winds of Hurricane Rita. We were called to a meeting    like John Moore, Jerry Braun, Peg Corneille, Erica
      with our displaced supreme court to plan how best       Moeser, and Missy Gavagni. All have given unstint-
      to determine the extent of the problem, develop pos-    ingly of their wealth of knowledge and experience
      sible courses of action, and respond to the many        and have made my life as a bar admission adminis-
      inquires we were receiving from applicants and the      trator that much easier. A quick look at our admis-
      general public. We immediately called Erica, who        sion rules and application forms will show that I
      agreed to travel to Baton Rouge to participate in the   have been guilty of grand theft. Thanks to these folks
      meeting with our court. Through her expertise and       and to the many others that I did not mention (you
      support, we were able to create a plan which our        all know who you are).
      court approved. (I am sure the Committee’s recom-
                                                                  Members of the NCBE staff have been similarly
      mendations to the Court were enhanced by the fact
                                                              helpful. From Joe Covington to Kent Brye, the NCBE
      that there were no hotel rooms available in Baton
                                                              staff has been extraordinary. The range of services
      Rouge and Erica had to spend the night at the coun-
                                                              offered by NCBE has increased many times over
      try home of one our justices.)
                                                              since 1978 when NCBE offered only the MBE and its
          NCBE support was, as always, there when             character investigation services. The testing options
      it was needed.                                          now cover everything a jurisdiction could wish for,
                                                              and the ancillary NCBE services provide all of us
                                                              with statistical help, computer support, educational
      THOUGHTS ON THE 75TH                                    opportunities for board members and staff, litigation

      ANNIVERSARY OF THE                                      resources, and the old reliable standby—character
                                                              investigations.
      NATIONAL CONFERENCE
                                                                  What of the future? Milestones are the perfect
      by R. David Stamm
                                                              opportunities to speculate about where we will be in
      How do I say “thank you” to an organization that        5, 10, or 25 years. In the next five years I see increas-
      has provided help and support to me and my board        ing use of technology to improve our ability to devel-
      for almost thirty years? NCBE has been an invalu-       op and deliver a high-quality bar examination and




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
                              R. DAVID STAMM is the admin-       Michigan, like many other jurisdictions, then
                              istrative director for the
                              Connecticut Bar Examining      used a locally prepared all-essay bar exam. The
                              Committee.                     Michigan Board had been overwhelmed by a major
                                                             surge of applicants and a corresponding surge in
                              assure the public that         blue books to be graded. Joe quickly convinced us of
                              our candidates are of          the MBE’s quality and explained that by using a mul-
                              the highest moral char-        tiple-choice component we could reduce the stack of
                              acter. Computer-based          blue books by half. We and our court enthusiastical-
                              testing may allow for          ly adopted the MBE.
                              testing of a broader               In 1974, John Germany, the chairman of the MBE
range of skills than can currently be tested with            Policy Committee, invited me to join that group. I'll
paper-and-pencil tests. Item response theory equat-          never forget my first meeting, which was in a confer-
ing can potentially permit an MBE with almost                ence room in the O’Hare Hilton. Because my flight
instant reporting of results. Ten years down the road,       was late I arrived after the meeting had started. A
we may see a bifurcated exam with the MBE offered            psychometrician from the Conference’s test consult-
following the first year of law school, the MEE fol-         ing firm had filled a blackboard with a bewildering
lowing the second year, and the MPT and local test-          array of calculations, equations, and graphics. She
ing after graduation. This will identify students with       spoke of statistical concepts that were unknown to
problems before they finish law school and will help         me. After the meeting, I approached Joe Covington,
to make the bar exam more humane. And on NCBE’s              confessed my confusion and suggested that he
100th anniversary—well, I’ll be very happy if I can          might want to reconsider my appointment to the
be there to sip some fine wine with old friends from         committee. Joe just laughed and assured me that I
the CBAA and NCBE.                                           would catch on quickly to what I really needed to
    Happy Birthday, NCBE!!                                   know. He was correct, and during the ensuing years
                                                             I served on and chaired the MBE Committee, the
                                                             MEE Committee, and the Board of Managers (now
AN NCBE                                                      the Board of Trustees).

REMINISCENCE                                                     On the 75th anniversary we should recognize the
                                                             work of those who took the Conference from a small
by Douglas D. Roche
                                                             organization that operated an essay question bank,
My first contact with the National Conference was a
                                                             gathered character and fitness information for some
visit in 1973 from Joe Covington to the Michigan
                                                             jurisdictions, and met at ABA meetings to what it has
Board of Law Examiners of which I was then a mem-
                                                             become today.
ber. Joe’s purpose was to explain to the Michigan
Board members the value of using the newly hatched               With advance apologies to those I may overlook,
Multistate Bar Examination.                                  I would like to recognize Joe Covington, our first




                                                                             ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
                                       DOUGLAS D. ROCHE is a con-     academia, different types of practice, and the judi-
                                       sulting member of Dickinson
                                                                      ciary. I also like to think that those of us who parti-
                                       Wright PLLC in Detroit,
                                       Michigan, and a former chair   cipate in drafting test questions learn some law in
                                       of the National Conference.
                                                                      the process.

                                                                          The Conference has come a long way since my
                                       director of testing, who
                                                                      first exposure in 1973. I'm grateful for the opportuni-
                                       was the driving force
                                                                      ty to be a part of a very distinguished organization
                                       in bringing the MBE
                                                                      that has contributed so much to the profession.
                                       into existence. John
                                       Germany, John Eckler,
      and Roy Wilkinson worked tirelessly and effectively             MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE
      in promoting the MBE throughout the country.
      Frank Morrissey was the “Godfather” of the MPRE
                                                                      LEADS TO LONGTIME
      and served the Conference in many roles, including              ASSOCIATION
      Chair of the Board of Managers and chief executive
                                                                      by Greg Murphy
      officer. Dick Julin, who succeeded Joe Covington as
                                                                      For me it all began back in 1986 with one of those
      director of testing and became the Conference’s
                                                                      pink telephone message slips. This one bore the
      first chief executive officer, made significant contri-
                                                                      name of Sumner Bernstein from Portland, Maine.
      butions to every aspect of the Conference. Armando
                                                                      Practicing in Montana, I had received business-
      Menocal and Jane Smith did fine work in developing
                                                                      related calls originating from various parts of
      the MPT. Other major contributors of my era were
                                                                      Montana, the western United States, Chicago, New
      Guy Beatty, Sumner Bernstein, Bob Muldoon, Lee
                                                                      York, and Washington, D.C., but never one from
      Satterfield, Jack Holt-Harris, Clyde Bowles, Arthur
                                                                      Maine. Although I did a little background check
      Karger, Margo Melli, Greg Murphy, Dick Bartlett,
                                                                      and discovered that Mr. Bernstein was a prominent
      Stuart Duhl, Jerry Hafter, Beverly Tarpley, Marvin
                                                                      Maine attorney, his call remained a mystery, and I
      Barkin, and Bob Potts, as well as all of the test draft-
                                                                      could not fathom its purpose.
      ing committee members, the bar administrators, and
      the NCBE staff.                                                     When I reached him, Sumner said, “Mr. Murphy,
                                                                      you are being considered for a position on the
          It is gratifying to observe the current efforts of
                                                                      Multistate Bar Examination Committee. If it would
      the Conference in quality control and improvement,
                                                                      be offered, would you accept?” That was exactly the
      service to the states, innovation, fair access to our
                                                                      way my firm put the proposition of employment to
      profession, and incorporating new technology and
                                                                      me back in 1980 when I was looking for a job. As the
      ideas. Erica Moeser is doing a fine job in leading
                                                                      job had turned out well, I thought Sumner’s
      the Conference.
                                                                      approach was a good omen. Moreover, I was very
          The rewards, for me, of participating in                    flattered. Here I was, a small-town lawyer in a small-
      Conference activities have included intellectual                population state, and I was being asked to serve on
      stimulation, valued friendships, and exposure to                a national committee that sounded pretty darn



   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
important. I said that I probably would accept, and                                       GREG MURPHY is a former
                                                                                          chair of both the National
then asked whether there was any information about                                        Conference of Bar Examiners
me that those in charge would like to know. Sumner                                        and the Montana Board of Bar
                                                                                          Examiners.
replied, “We know all we need to know.” So began
my twenty-year, and counting, affiliation with the
National Conference of Bar Examiners, an associa-
                                                                                          downtown         Chicago.
tion I have treasured and one that has benefited me
                                                                                          Finally, and perhaps
far more than any contribution I have made.
                                                                                          most importantly, we
    When Dick Bartlett was honored as a past chair                                        all knew that the com-
at the 2001 annual meeting in Whitefish, Montana, he                                      mute for our president,
commented that the friends he had made as a result         Erica Moeser, had to be taking its toll. She did not
of his work in the Conference were what he prized          complain and never once said to me that she might
more than anything else. One can always count on           not be able to continue unless a move was made.
Dick to cut to the heart of the matter. I have served      She did not campaign for the change. But, there
on many local, state, and national boards. I can say       could be little doubt that she would welcome it. We
without reservation that none has produced so read-        would surely be able retain her services for a longer
ily so many steadfast friends as has the National          period if we could move our headquarters to her
Conference. In no enterprise other than bar examin-        beloved “People’s Republic of Madison.” As David
ing have I found such universal dedication to good         Boyd said to me, “This is a no-brainer.”
work without hidden agendas. I believe the reason
                                                               The move to Madison proved to be an unquali-
for this dedication is the character of those who
                                                           fied success. Erica was able to attract a superior staff
decide to devote time to the pro bono effort of
                                                           to run the day-to-day operation. The quality of the
improving the process and the results of bar admis-
                                                           products and the services has improved dramatical-
sions. What a joy it has been!
                                                           ly. The finances of the Conference became far more
    If I were to mention one contribution I have           stable and allowed the Board to consider bigger and
made to the Conference that made a true difference,        more meaningful projects. The move to Madison
it was the suggestion at the Board meeting in              was not the sole cause for these pleasant turns of
Greenville, Mississippi (the home of the first friend I    events, but the improvements would not have
made in the Conference), that we leave the rented          occurred so readily had Erica not stayed at the helm
space at 333 N. Michigan Avenue in Chicago and             and recruited the terrific staff she has assembled.
move the operation to a city with a Big Ten or other       The irony of the Conference being headquartered in
leading university to which we might more readily          the only state with the diploma privilege remains,
attract leading psychometric talent. In addition, once     but what fun would life be without delicious ironies?
the Conference had the capital to purchase real
                                                               I considered listing a litany of all the grand times
estate, it made little sense for it, a non-profit corpo-
                                                           enjoyed in the company of fellow Conferees, but
ration with contacts all around the country, to rent in




                                                                            ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
      quickly realized that the space permitted here would
      not allow for a good accounting. Also, mentioning
                                                                REFLECTIONS ON PROGRESS
      some of the events and the names involved would           by Jack Marshall
      necessarily mean failing to mention others equally        My history with the National Conference of Bar
      deserving of note. Suffice it to say that the quality     Examiners and the Council of Bar Administration
      of the discussion always mirrored the quality of          Administrators is extensive. I joined the ranks of the
      the people. It also bears mentioning that the national    bar admissions administrators in late 1986, when I
      scope of the Conference activities has required the       was hired as the director of character and fitness for
      Board to hold meetings and conduct seminars across        the Texas Board of Law Examiners, following my 20-
      the length and breadth of the country. As a conse-        year career as an Army officer. Shortly after I was
      quence, bar examiners and bar administrators have         hired, I began to attend meetings of the CBAA, and
      been “networked,” a very good thing for the good of       through the ensuing years, I have been active in the
      the process. I must personally confess delight in the     organization, chairing the Character and Fitness
      opportunity to see so many places. I bought a U.S.        Committee and the Nominations Committee, and
      map, hung it in my basement in Billings, Montana,         being honored by my colleagues when they inducted
      and put pins in the places I had been thanks to my        me as CBAA Chair for the 2003-2004 term. I have also
      Conference travels; I gave up when the big box of         served on several panels at both CBAA meetings and
      pins ran empty.                                           NCBE seminars. Finally, I have served on the NCBE
                                                                Character and Fitness Committee since August 2003.
          Kudos must go to our current chair, Diane Bosse,
      and to Erica for arranging the videotaping of the             When I began my career as an administrator, my
      reminiscences of board members past and present on        knowledge of NCBE and the CBAA was minimal,
      the occasion of the 75th birthday of the Conference.      because I was concentrating on learning the ropes of
      The project will build a valuable historical record for   the character and fitness operation in Texas. I do
      the coming generations. We must feel a twinge of          recall that our executive director at that time, Wayne
      regret that those, including Sumner, who have             Denton, spoke highly of CBAA meetings. After
      passed on cannot be recorded in the same way. But,        attending my first few meetings I quickly discovered
      we may take comfort in knowing that those who             that, although I was able to travel to and explore
      have succeeded them and labored in service to the         some very interesting places, the real benefit of
      Conference have been true to the principles and           attending CBAA meetings was in making contacts
      examples they set. The Conference remains in good         with administrators from other states who had
      hands and there is every reason to believe that the       extensive experience in the C&F business.
      constituencies it serves will see better products and
                                                                    I also recall that, although I was learning more
      service in the future.
                                                                and more about the CBAA, if you had asked me at
                                                                that time to explain the role and functions of the
                                                                National Conference, I would have told you that
                                                                NCBE produced the Multistate Bar Examination,




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
offered an investigative service, and had some sort                                      JACK MARSHALL is the Director
                                                                                         of Character and Fitness for
of a board. I only knew about the investigative                                          the Texas Board of Law
service because Texas used the NCBE investigative                                        Examiners.

service for a short time for out-of-state applicants. I
knew that there was a board because the chair of                                         istrators to ensure that
the Texas Board, Beverly Tarpley, served in some                                         the presentations and
capacity on that board. (I came to learn that she was                                    discussion       included
a member of the Board of Trustees, and eventually,                                       the views and concerns
the Chair.) As I became more active in the CBAA, I                                       of those of us “in the
discovered that NCBE provided essential funding                                          trenches.” The Confer-
for the CBAA meetings. The communication                  ence has also in the past several years developed a
between the CBAA and the National Conference,             series of mini-seminars held at the Conference head-
though, seemed limited, other than communication          quarters. These mini-seminars are designed to bring
about the tests produced and some back and forth          administrators and Conference staff together, in a
with jurisdictions that used the Conference’s inves-      small group setting, to address issues arising in spe-
tigative services.                                        cific areas, such as technology, testing, and character
    From my perspective, things began to change           and fitness. The Conference has developed signifi-
when the helm of the Conference was taken over by         cant technological advances that have increased the
new leadership in 1994 and new staff was hired.           efficiency and thoroughness of its services, and those
Practically overnight, it seemed, the Conference was      technological developments have been made avail-
transformed into a living, breathing entity whose         able to the jurisdictions.
primary mission included assisting the jurisdictions          Above all else, perhaps, is the fact that the
in accomplishing all of the tasks associated with         Conference staff goes to extraordinary lengths to
bar admissions. It seemed that the Conference and         assist administrators in all facets of the bar admis-
the CBAA began to form one cohesive joint force           sions business. Those who are relatively new to bar
that was aimed at addressing the challenges facing        admissions probably take the assistance provided by
bar admissions.                                           the NCBE staff for granted; however, I can assure
    With the new leadership and staff at NCBE came        you that it was not like that “in the old days.”
significant improvements in existing services and             I will close with a trite, but appropriate, com-
programs, and more importantly, new services and          ment on the history of the relationship between
programs. For example, the Conference seminars            bar admission administrators, the CBAA, and
became more focused not only on current issues, but       NCBE since 1986: “You’ve come a long way, baby!”
also on issues appearing on the horizon that would        It has been a privilege for me to have been along
impact future bar admissions. The panels at those         for the ride.
seminars included a generous mixture of bar admin-




                                                                           ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
                                                                     But with respect to character and fitness, an
      LOOKING FORWARD TO A                                       applicant can’t be as sure of what will be required or,
      NATIONAL CHARACTER                                         rather, what will be disqualifying. Virtually every
      AND FITNESS STANDARD                                       jurisdiction requires that an applicant be of “good
                                                                 character and fitness,” but that standard is amor-
      by Jerome Braun
                                                                 phous and not readily capable of definition. Some
      The sea tide in the bar admissions community in            jurisdictions try to define the standard, as does
      the United States has long been towards standardi-         California in Section 6060 of its Business and
      zation of admission requirements. There have been          Professions Code, but in the end, one finds vague
      ebbs and flows in the tide, but a cursory comparison       terms to define a vague standard. Unfortunately,
      of admissions practices of 75 years ago with those of      jurisdictions can do little more because applicant
      today reflects the overall run of the tide. Seventy-five   conduct can be viewed in various ways depending
      years ago, there were no multistate examinations;          on the totality of circumstances. This leads to uncer-
      today there are four. Seventy-five years ago commu-        tainty on the part of the applicants and to the possi-
      nication between the bar admissions authorities of         bility that an applicant with a problematic back-
      the various jurisdictions was sparse; today jurisdic-      ground will forum shop to find a jurisdiction which
      tions communicate both on the bar examiner level           either does not conduct as rigorous a background
      and on that of the bar admissions administrators.          investigation as some others or which views the
          In large part the flow of the tide has been guided     problematic conduct more leniently than might other
      by the National Conference of Bar Examiners                jurisdictions.
      through its Board of Trustees (and in its earlier incar-       More and more jurisdictions are moving towards
      nation, the Board of Managers), the Conference’s           multijurisdictional practice through motion admis-
      staff, and the Council of Bar Admission Admini-            sion, and the American Bar Association’s Section of
      strators. It seems safe to say that as a result, the bar   Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has be-
      admissions processes are fair and unbiased with            gun consideration of the idea of a national examina-
      respect to gender or ethnicity; the decision to admit      tion standard. So, too, the United States bar admis-
      or not admit any particular applicant in terms of          sions community should begin to work to reach con-
      minimum competence is based solely on that appli-          sensus on a uniform standard as to the minimal level
      cant’s ability as demonstrated by examination, that        of character and fitness required for admission, both
      is, the achievement of an examination score specified      to protect the consumers of legal services and to pro-
      by the particular jurisdiction. The requisite score        vide a definable standard that bar applicants will
      varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but those        know they must meet to be licensed as lawyers.
      scores are published and an applicant for admission
      in a particular jurisdiction will know what score              This task won’t be easy since it does not appear

      will be required.                                          that any such consensus exists today. For example,
                                                                 some jurisdictions will not admit a felon while
                                                                 others will if sufficient time has elapsed or if the




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
felon has obtained a full and complete pardon. Some                                         JEROME BRAUN is a retired
                                                                                            admissions administrator, hav-
jurisdictions ask for a complete record of arrests                                          ing served in that position with
regardless of whether the arrest resulted in a convic-                                      the Supreme Court of Georgia
                                                                                            and the State Bar of California.
tion while others require reporting of only convic-
tions. Some jurisdictions place great emphasis on
                                                                                            and a subsequent de-
financial integrity while others appear to place
                                                                                            termination of whether
greater stress on other factors in an applicant’s back-
                                                                                            the applicant has the
ground. While there are areas of greater or lesser
                                                                                            character and fitness to
import for the various jurisdictions, all require can-
                                                                                            be licensed to practice.
dor and honesty on the part of an applicant. Creating
                                                                                            Pride of authorship of
a uniform standard will take time, but if doing so
                                                             questions should not stand in the way of a uniform
is a goal that the jurisdictions find worthwhile,
                                                             character and fitness questionnaire. With the input of
agreement can be reached. A goal should not be
                                                             all jurisdictions, a good questionnaire can be crafted.
abandoned because it will be difficult to achieve; if
it is desired, it should be pursued.                             The second step will be to reach agreement on
                                                             which commissions or omissions will disqualify an
    There are two steps that can be taken to achieve
                                                             applicant. This will be particularly difficult because
the goal. The first, and the easiest, is for jurisdictions
                                                             the facts of each instance of problematic conduct are
to adopt a uniform character and fitness question-
                                                             likely to be unique to the particular applicant and
naire. The Conference’s standard character and fit-
                                                             incident, and because in society as a whole there is at
ness questionnaire provides a good place to start
                                                             best a very loose consensus as to what is and what is
since its character and fitness service is used by
                                                             not acceptable conduct. Thus, these attempts should
many jurisdictions to gather background informa-
                                                             not be made in a vacuum. The public, the legal edu-
tion on their applicants. That being so, the questions
                                                             cation community, the profession, and the judiciary
asked and the documentation required have been
                                                             should be invited to participate in this project
widely accepted and therefore represent a good
                                                             because they have a stake in the outcome of the
foundation from which to craft requests for informa-
                                                             process—the admission or non-admission of a par-
tion that all jurisdictions will want for the purpose
                                                             ticular individual to the practice of law.
of making character and fitness determinations.
Other jurisdictions use forms that differ from the               The National Conference is an appropriate body
Conference’s form to a greater or lesser degree. The         to coordinate and support this process starting with
Conference and the various jurisdictions (perhaps            the appointment of a core group of interested per-
through the Council of Bar Admission Administra-             sons and representatives of the stakeholders to dis-
tors) should attempt to agree on the questions to be         cuss what it means to say that an applicant is of good
asked and the documentation to be required of each           character and to craft standards by which that assess-
applicant so as to provide sufficient information on         ment can be made. Public hearings should be con-
which to base a character and fitness investigation          ducted to ensure the widest possible participation




                                                                              ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY      
      in the project, both in the defining of good character   presidents, as well as with state bar examiners. Yet, I
      and in the drafting of applicable standards once the     did not know the full range of NCBE activities.
      definition has been crafted.
                                                                   When I look back on the changes of the past
          Some would argue that the steps outlined above       thirty-two years relating to the American legal pro-
      should be in reverse order; the definition of good       fession, bar admissions, and NCBE, it is clear that
      character should precede the crafting of a uniform       globalization is perhaps the most significant devel-
      questionnaire. Perhaps, but questionnaires already       opment that has taken place. With the growth of the
      exist and standards of character and fitness are cur-    European Union, now comprising twenty-five coun-
      rently being applied. The advantage of a uniform         tries, and the free movement of members of the legal
      questionnaire is that all jurisdictions would be ask-    profession within the Union, transcending language
      ing the same questions, which would discourage if        difficulties and the challenges inherent in moving
      not prevent an applicant from forum shopping to          between civil and common law, it is clear that the
      avoid answering difficult questions or to avoid pro-     removal of barriers to free movement of legal profes-
      viding documentation that he or she would rather         sionals is the most important factor affecting bar
      not provide.                                             admission in the world and in the United States,
                                                               today and tomorrow.
          Giant strides start with baby steps.
                                                                   Over ten years ago the ABA Section of Legal
                                                               Education and Admissions to the Bar endorsed the
      GLOBALIZATION AND BAR                                    adoption by states of the Foreign Legal Consultant

      ADMISSIONS                                               Rule. This rule reflects the globalization of legal
                                                               practice and the increasing pressure to permit cross-
      by James P. White
                                                               border practice. The rule resulted from efforts to
      In reflecting upon the 75th anniversary of the           address cross-border international practice while
      National Conference of Bar Examiners, I think of         acknowledging the authority of each U.S. jurisdic-
      1974 and the legal profession at the time when I was     tion to control its bar admissions. However, we have
      appointed Consultant on Legal Education to the           found that this effort to provide foreign legal advice
      American Bar Association. The operation of the           in the various states has been used rarely in those
      Consultant’s office was vastly different at the end of   jurisdictions that have adopted the rule.
      my tenure and is more so today as indeed is that of
                                                                   Some eight years ago, NCBE President Erica
      the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Yet the
                                                               Moeser and I attended a conference in Paris spon-
      basic responsibilities of these two organizations and
                                                               sored by the Bar Councils of Europe, the Japanese
      offices remain true to their original purposes.
                                                               Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.
          At the time of my appointment as the ABA             The conference discussion as it related to the United
      Consultant, I was somewhat familiar with the role of     States focused on the authority of the highest courts
      the National Conference of Bar Examiners and had         of each state and their respective boards of bar exam-
      met and worked with a variety of NCBE chairs and         iners to regulate bar admissions. Most participants




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
                             JAMES P. WHITE, a professor of        If we are now living in an interdependent world,
                             law at Indiana University
                             School of Law-Indianapolis, is
                                                               how will local and national rules on bar admissions
                             the Consultant Emeritus on        change? The retention of bar admissions authority in
                             Legal Education to the ABA,
                                                               each admitting jurisdiction is historic and important.
                             having served as the Consultant
                             for 26 years.                     If only some U.S. jurisdictions permit graduates of
                                                               Canadian law schools or graduates of foreign law
                             from other countries              schools who have secured an American LL.M. degree
                             could not understand a            to sit for the bar exam, the question then is the har-
                             system in which this              monization of the American bar admission process.
                             authority resides in              As we have moved toward the use of a multistate bar
each individual state with the highest court and the           examination and discussion of a national bar exami-
state board of bar examiners. The Law Society of               nation, how do we facilitate cross-border, cross-
England and Wales particularly questioned this                 world law practice? This is now a crucial question for
authority of the highest courts of the individual              the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the
states and has since engaged in ongoing dialogue               bar admission authorities across the country.
with the ABA and NCBE.

    I believe that globalization is causing and will
continue to cause the United States to rethink its
                                                               BY THE NUMBERS:
system of bar admissions. As John Sexton observed              THREE REFLECTIONS ON
in his 2000 remarks to the London meeting of the               DRAFTING MBE ITEMS
American Bar Association:
                                                               by John W. Reed
    [T]oday clients are represented in the same                Anniversaries are milestones, not destinations, and
    transaction by lawyers from American law                   the wise see them as opportunities to look to the
    firms who are graduates of American law                    future. But anniversaries also create an irresistible
    schools and by lawyers from European firms                 compulsion to reflect, to look back. I have been asso-
    who are products of a much more typical                    ciated with the Multistate Bar Examination “move-
    legal education consisting of five years of                ment” from its beginnings more than thirty-five
    education after secondary school. These                    years ago, and looking back leads me to three partic-
    clients report that the American-trained                   ular observations.
    lawyers and those trained elsewhere bring
    comparable skills to the table. This observa-              The Power of One
    tion, if true, will become more palpable as                In the late 1960s, Joe Covington, at that time a mem-
    the American firms and the European firms                  ber of the University of Missouri law faculty, asked
    begin to hire lawyers from each other’s                    several of us, mostly academics, to work with him
    pools—and these lawyers begin to practice                  on the creation of an objective, machine-gradable
    side by side as associates and partners.                   component of the bar examination that would be




                                                                                 ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
      effective and fair, and also useful across state lines.                                    JOHN W. REED, Thomas M.
                                                                                                 Cooley Professor of Law
      The odds were daunting, both because of doubts                                             Emeritus at the University
      about multiple-choice questions as legitimate means                                        of Michigan Law School,
                                                                                                 serves on the MBE Evidence
      of testing readiness for admission to the bar and
                                                                                                 Drafting Committee, a com-
      because of our nation’s balkanized system of bar                                           mittee he chaired for 34 years.
      examinations and admission. Although I visited
      boards of bar examiners in several states with Joe, I
                                                                                                 Several days of essay
      do not really know how many scores of conferences
                                                                                                 questions would be
      and thousands of hours he chalked up in creating
                                                                                                 required to cover the
      what eventually became the MBE and in persuading
                                                                                                 subject matter in the
      state after state to embrace its use. With his imagina-
                                                                 one-day MBE. But a well-drafted four-option format
      tion and energy and his quiet determination and
                                                                 does more than test for rule knowledge; and there’s
      persistence, Joe Covington—one man—essentially
                                                                 the rub for the question’s author: “well-drafted.” It is
      willed the MBE into existence, and its nearly univer-
                                                                 easy to create a two-option question, and not terribly
      sal use today is a testament to what one person can
                                                                 hard to write one with three options; but two- and
      do to improve the profession to which he has been
                                                                 three-option questions almost never test well for the
      called. It has been said that you don’t need many
                                                                 ability to apply rules and principles to problematic
      heroes if you choose wisely. Joe is one of my heroes.
                                                                 cases. Yet to create that fourth option, usually one
      The Challenge of Four                                      that offers the right outcome but for the wrong rea-

      When we began drafting questions for the evidence          son, is, in my experience, deucedly difficult. My fel-

      portion of the Multistate Bar Examination, I shared        low draftsmen and I have discarded many drafts of

      the widely held doubt that a multiple-choice ques-         questions because of our inability to devise an

      tion could adequately test both knowledge and the          appealing but wrong fourth option. Creating that

      ability to apply that knowledge. At the very least, it     often-elusive fourth option is the key to a profession-

      seemed that it could not test creativity since the right   ally excellent question, and I submit that the several

      answer is necessarily placed before the examinee.          drafting committees perform that task well.

      (By the way, that skepticism lingers—indeed was                It is said that if you look at two works by a writer
      expressed earlier this year even by the federal judge      or composer or painter and cannot tell which of the
      who nevertheless upheld the National Conference’s          two is the later, that artist is only a minor figure. I do
      plagiarism claims against a prominent bar examina-         not claim for a moment that all the MBE questions
      tion preparation company.) But I stayed with the           can be ranked in similar fashion, but over the years
      project and came to have steadily increasing confi-        the drafting committees have become more skilled
      dence in the efficacy of the model we use.                 and more sophisticated, and the later forms of the
          First, of course, the MBE enables examiners to         examination are demonstrably superior to those of
      test for a vastly broader range of knowledge of legal      “the early days.” Indeed they are of high quality not
      rules and principles in a given amount of time.            merely on a comparative scale but on any scale of




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
test excellence. And, going forward, we are striving      Educational Testing Service and now, for many
to maintain that ascending line.                          years, ACT. It would be hard to overstate the cama-
                                                          raderie and warmth of the relationships that have
Two Rewards of Drafting Committee Service                 grown over the years among us all. I have been rich-
I have taught the course in Evidence since 1946, and      ly rewarded. For the future of NCBE and its MBE,
I have watched the evolution of the subject from a        I wish for our successors the same satisfactions of
largely common law field to codification through the      usefulness and growth and friendships that we
Federal Rules of Evidence and derivative state codes      have enjoyed.
with, today, an overlay of case law and constitution-
al limitations.

    At any given time over those years I have felt
                                                          NCBE—WHAT’S THAT?
reasonably confident that I knew the subject matter       by Marlyce Gholston
well. But one great benefit to me and to my students      When I began my job as the executive director of the
that accrued from my service on the Evidence              Oregon Board of Bar Examiners, I came across a
Drafting Committee was learning what is not so. At        number of services I needed to learn about, some of
almost every meeting, I have entered into a discus-       them offered by NCBE. In the beginning I recall
sion of a drafted question quite sure of the applicable   knowing only that NCBE had offices in Chicago and
rule and of my answer, only to have my colleagues         provided investigative services to assist jurisdictions
persuade me that I had missed a nuance, or even           in determining the character and fitness of their
misunderstood totally the rule’s application in the       bar applicants.
particular setting. And I know that the other com-
                                                              Since then, I have learned of much more as the
mittee members have had the same experience. An
                                                          Conference has developed and expanded its offer-
important part of education consists of finding out
                                                          ings. Milestones in NCBE history include the estab-
what one misunderstands or doesn’t know, and so I
                                                          lishment of the multistate tests—the MBE, followed
have had the incalculable benefit of a semi-annual
                                                          by the MPRE, the MEE, and the MPT—and the very
Evidence seminar with highly talented colleagues for
                                                          informative educational seminars.
more than thirty years.
                                                              Most important to me, as an administrator, was
    The greater reward of MBE committee service
                                                          the formation of the CBAA (the Council—formerly
has been the joy of associating with expert and gen-
                                                          the Committee—of Bar Admission Administrators)
erous colleagues who devote their considerable tal-
                                                          in August of 1975 in Montreal. The CBAA has played
ents to the improvement of the process by which to
                                                          an important role in allowing bar admission admin-
judge readiness to enter the profession. The Evidence
                                                          istrators to meet, share ideas, present and participate
Drafting Committee has always consisted of a trial
                                                          in programs covering subjects vital to the perform-
judge, one or more trial lawyers, and members of law
                                                          ance of our jobs, and discuss the important bar exam-
faculties—delightful all—and it has been superbly
                                                          ination issues that face each of us every day.
supported by professional aides from, originally, the




                                                                            ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
          Of most importance, of course, is the knowledge                                    MARLYCE GHOLSTON is the
                                                                                             executive director of the
      we have gained through educational programs and                                        Oregon Board of Bar Exam-
      discussion with one another. More and more appli-                                      iners and the Executive
                                                                                             Secretary of the CBAA.
      cants are asking for special testing accommoda-
      tions—it is tremendous to be able to share informa-
      tion with other administrators regarding the han-                                      of   those    fortunate
      dling of such requests, and most recently, we have                                     administrators); seeing
      been sharing information regarding laptop computer                                     Scott   Street’s   (VA)
      testing by applicants.                                                                 newly acquired tattoo
                                                                                             (we found out it wasn’t
          But the ultimate benefit for me of my involve-
                                                              permanent); watching Peg Corneille (MN) accept a
      ment with the Conference has been getting to know
                                                              toy fire engine in honor of her calling the fire depart-
      the other administrators and the NCBE personnel. In
                                                              ment from the hotel—for what turned out to be a
      addition to being able to work with these individu-
                                                              very good reason; serving as Chair of the CBAA, and
      als, many of them have become my very dear friends
                                                              as the Executive Secretary of the CBAA since 1979
      and I have many fond memories that include them.
                                                              (the idea was to get someone who could and would
          Always in my mind will be the “extracurricular”     serve for more than just a year or two—that seems to
      parts of those trips and meetings: Having our small     have happened!); and, so many, many, more memo-
      plane, with a number of administrators and former       ries, too numerous to mention. Where else could one
      NCBE Director of Administration Bill Morris on it,      have the opportunity to meet such wonderful, car-
      turned back because of “trouble”; enjoying David        ing, and sharing people, making friends throughout
      Stamm’s (CT) purchase of bookends in Washington,        the United States who would be happy to be called
      D.C.; watching while Wayne Denton (TX) was escort-      on at any time? That invaluable benefit is a big part
      ed away by two security guards in a restaurant          of what an association with NCBE (and the CBAA)
      where we were all enjoying dinner; being in a hotel     is all about.
      without hot water for the entire stay; enjoying the
      historical sites in Boston, Washington, Philadelphia,
      and Williamsburg; walking back from a social hour       CONGRATULATIONS FROM
      in New Orleans with Trustee Erias Hyman (DC);
      rooming with the future NCBE president, Erica
                                                              WEST VIRGINIA
      Moeser; a trip to my origins in Minnesota with Myra     by Sarah N. Hall
      Hajny (NCBE) and Carol McDonald (ID); worrying          Expecting a “Jeopardy-like” response from you, the
      about hosting a meeting in my home city of Portland     answer is: This state most recently abolished the
      (some CBAA members will remember finding the            diploma privilege, leaving Wisconsin as the sole
      “Church of Elvis” there); participating in NCBE         remaining user of diploma privilege in bar admis-
      lunches and watching my counterparts receive com-       sions. The question is: What is the state of West
      mendation from the Conference (and also being one       Virginia? This seemed to me an appropriate way to




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
begin my congratulations to the National Conference                                      SARAH N. HALL is a former chair
                                                                                         of the National Conference of Bar
of Bar Examiners on its 75th anniversary.                                                Examiners and currently serves as
                                                                                         a Workers’ Compensation Admin-
    My experience with the National Conference of                                        istrative Law Judge for the State of
Bar Examiners began more than twenty years ago                                           West Virginia.

when I was appointed to the West Virginia Board of
Law Examiners by the West Virginia Supreme Court                                         schools      outside      the
of Appeals. Since that time, I have learned of the                                       state.
NCBE goals related to bar admissions and met many
                                                                                              In restructuring the
of the talented and dedicated people working
                                                                                         process, we looked at
toward those goals. As a result, the Conference has
                                                          our examination, which was 2½ days—the MBE on
been not only a vital part of my work in bar admis-
                                                          the first day and then 1½ days of essay questions on
sions but also a part of many personal experiences
                                                          West Virginia law prepared by members of the West
that I cherish.
                                                          Virginia Board of Law Examiners. In our delibera-
    The question asked above (I am sure all of you in     tions, there stood NCBE at the ready to assist, and
bar admissions answered correctly!) brings up just        the greatest assistance came from the fact that NCBE
one of the many examples that attest to NCBE’s true       offered jurisdictions an essay examination. There it
commitment to fulfilling its mission to serve jurisdic-   was, the newly created Multistate Essay Exami-
tions. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals         nation, first having been administered about one
changed the longstanding rule regarding diploma           year earlier, in July 1988. The brainchild of former
privilege effective January 1, 1986. The new rule stat-   NCBE Chair Margo Melli, the MEE was designed
ed: “Any person who produces a diploma of gradu-          to assist the smaller jurisdictions, like West Virginia,
ation from the College of Law of West Virginia shall      by offering professionally prepared, high-quality
not be required to take the bar examination until July    questions that could be answered using general
1, 1988, upon which date the diploma privilege shall      principles of law or the law of the administering
be abolished.” The new rule allowed time for those        jurisdiction. West Virginia adopted the MEE and first
individuals who were already enrolled at the College      administered it in July 1989, also the first test admin-
of Law to graduate and be admitted to the bar under       istration date for West Virginia College of Law grad-
the diploma privilege. During this time, the bar          uates after the diploma privilege was abolished.
admissions process had to be restructured, all before
                                                              While we on the West Virginia Board were in
July 1989. That was the date of the expected multi-
                                                          the process of developing new procedures, NCBE
fold increase in the number of applicants taking the
                                                          Director of Administration Anthony Nigro came to
bar examination (potentially including all the gradu-
                                                          West Virginia on at least two occasions to help en-
ates of the College of Law, since they would likely
                                                          sure that everything went smoothly, and smoothly it
choose to be admitted in West Virginia). In previous
                                                          did go. West Virginia still uses the MEE and also
years, we had tested a far smaller number—only
                                                          adopted the Multistate Performance Test sometime
those examinees who had graduated from law




                                                                           ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY    
      after it came along in 1997. West Virginia also uses       our more-than-gracious hosts’ home where we
      the NCBE investigative services for the character          warmed ourselves as best we could and nestled our-
      and fitness component of admissions. Importantly,          selves around the fireplace like a large family at
      NCBE encourages jurisdictions to seek its assistance       Thanksgiving, laughing and talking and enjoying
      in answering the many questions that may come up           one another’s company. It is that personal touch that
      in the administration of the bar examination or in a       makes the Conference so special.
      character and fitness investigation. Our very able
                                                                     So, congratulations, NCBE, on your 75th anni-
      staff in the bar admissions office in West Virginia
                                                                 versary. It would be most appropriate to shower you
      maintains and appreciates its close contact with
                                                                 with many gifts, all made of diamonds, but, at least
      the Conference.
                                                                 in my case, I hope you will accept instead a heartfelt
          I have served on NCBE committees and became            thank you for all you have done for the bar admis-
      a member of the NCBE Board of Trustees in the early        sions community and a wish for at least 75 more
      ’90s; I served as Chair from August 1999 until August      wonderful years.
      2000. This was during a continuing period of transi-
      tion for NCBE which included the massive under-
      taking of moving its offices from the longtime loca-       MY MEE FAMILY
      tion in Chicago to its current home in Madison,            by Sheldon F. Kurtz
      Wisconsin. I continued to serve on Conference com-
                                                                 For almost 20 years it has been my privilege to be
      mittees after rotating off the Board, and through this
                                                                 associated with the professionals of the NCBE fami-
      long association have become keenly aware of the
                                                                 ly. These professionals include an incredible group of
      efforts that go into the work of the Conference and all
                                                                 women (with a smattering of men) located at what I
      the time and talent it takes to make it such an impor-
                                                                 affectionately refer to as the “home office,” as well as
      tant entity in bar admissions. I have also developed
                                                                 the many academics, lawyers, and judges who con-
      many, many meaningful friendships and have had
                                                                 tribute their time and talent to the development of
      wonderful times that I would not have experienced
                                                                 the MBE, MEE, MPT, and MPRE by serving on draft-
      were it not for my association with NCBE. The Board
                                                                 ing committees, policy committees, or the NCBE
      and the committee meetings take place in many
                                                                 Board of Trustees. But we know that NCBE is more.
      interesting venues, and perhaps some that I would
                                                                 It also includes that wonderful group of volunteers
      not have known I would enjoy so much or been par-
                                                                 who grade essays and performance test exams in
      ticularly steered toward otherwise. I liked it best
                                                                 Chicago and at home and the connections with the
      when some event was happening at the location that
                                                                 dedicated bar examiners and bar administrators who
      the residents were all excited about. I recall one meet-
                                                                 labor in their home states to assure that only the
      ing not too long after I rotated off the Board where
                                                                 deserving are clothed with the honored title “attor-
      we were soaked with rain, ponchos notwithstanding,
                                                                 ney-at-law.” And, best of all, I get to call these people
      while attending a most important college football
                                                                 my friends. I am so personally indebted to the
      game. (Go, Sooners!!) We retreated to the comfort of
                                                                 Conference for these relationships. I have cherished




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
                              SHELDON F. KURTZ is the Percy          Over my time with the Conference, I’ve seen it
                              Bordwell Professor of Law at
                              the University of Iowa College   grow not only with respect to the quality and quan-
                              of Law; he has been the chair    tity of its tests but also by undertaking a service
                              of the MEE Drafting Committee
                              for 17 years.
                                                               responsibility to create and present quality educa-
                                                               tional programs to bar examiners and academics
                              every one of my years            about a host of issues relevant to bar admissions and
                              in   association      with       test development. I’ve seen the Conference leader-
                              NCBE and look for-               ship become a moving force by working with legal
                              ward to many more.               educators to better educate law students preparing

                                   My NCBE story               to enter the profession and I’ve seen it reach out to

begins in San Diego (I believe it was 1987) when I             assure that diverse groups have a voice and partici-

was invited to participate with what I recall was a 15-        pation in the testing and admissions process. So

person fledgling essay drafting committee. From that           Happy Birthday, NCBE, and again, thanks for letting

original group I am literally “the last man standing.”         me be part of the family.

What I remember most about that meeting was how
hard we worked. We labored so hard and so long
that it wasn’t until Sunday morning as I was leaving
                                                               DRAFTING BAR EXAM
the Hotel del Coronado that I realized I had been              QUESTIONS IN HISTORICAL
holed up next to the scenic Pacific Ocean.
                                                               PERSPECTIVE—ARE
    Within two years of that first meeting the MEE             TODAY’S ESSAY QUESTIONS
Drafting Committee was reconstituted to a commit-
tee of five following a Conference decision to limit
                                                               BETTER?
the number of topics on the MEE to non-MBE topics,             by Stuart Duhl
and, lo and behold, I found myself nominated as                At the Conference’s 75th anniversary, it may be use-
chair of the MEE Drafting Committee, a position I’ve           ful to look back at the progress that has been made in
held ever since.                                               the preparation of bar exam essay questions and to
    Over the years, the MEE Drafting Committee,                look forward to the challenges that lie ahead. Some
like the Johnny Cash song, has “been everywhere.”              of us who have created bar examination essay ques-
We’ve drafted and edited questions “from the moun-             tions are willing to admit that it has never been easy
tains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam.”        to draft questions that accurately test legal reasoning
And at the same time, somewhat unlike the experi-              and analysis. Early on we were reminded of this fact
ence of other drafting committee members, I have               by James E. Brenner who stated in his book BAR
been involved in teaching bar examiners best prac-             EXAMINATIONS     AND   REQUIREMENTS   FOR   ADMISSION   TO

tices for drafting essay questions at numerous NCBE            THE   BAR, “The evidence does show, however, that
national educational seminars.                                 there are a good many persons that attempt to draft
                                                               bar examination questions who are not born with the




                                                                                 ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
      gift and have not acquired it. If a bar examiner is not                                    STUART DUHL is a former chair
                                                                                                 of the National Conference of
      gifted as a draftsman, it will be a coincidence if his
                                                                                                 Bar Examiners and a current
      questions turn out to be good ones.”1                                                      member of its Editorial Advi-
                                                                                                 sory Committee.
          For those of us experienced enough to remem-
      ber, the Conference in the 1950s and 1960s had a Bar
                                                                                                 drafted by bar examin-
      Examination Service Committee which conducted a
                                                                                                 ers who are busy with
      program of digesting and cataloguing essay ques-
                                                                                                 other responsibilities
      tions. The Conference acted as a clearinghouse for
                                                                                                 and have limited time
      bar examination questions given in various state bar
                                                                                                 in   which     to   draft
      examinations. Jurisdictions sent the questions and
                                                                                                 appropriate questions.
      answers they had used to the Conference and the
                                                                While in some instances questions are purchased
      Conference made these available to other jurisdic-
                                                                from law professors and other persons who might be
      tions as a resource for generating ideas and answers
                                                                more competent to draft appropriate questions, it
      for new essay questions. In 1968 it was reported that
                                                                seems that very few jurisdictions procure questions
      during the 13 years of the Committee’s existence it
                                                                using this procedure. The Conference’s seminars on
      had accumulated a pool of 4,070 questions and had
                                                                drafting bar exam essay questions are certainly help-
      distributed them multiple times, with 13,300 ques-
                                                                ful, but the quality of the essay questions in many
      tions going to examiners in the various states.2
                                                                states could still be improved. At a minimum, con-
          At long last and with good cause raised by con-       cerns about the “freshness” of questions and the time
      cerns over the reuse of these questions, including        that bar examiners or law professors take when
      issues of security, the problems with drafting good       drafting appropriate questions needs to be carefully
      essay questions led the Conference to abolish the         reviewed and analyzed. For example, consider the
      question library and develop the Multistate Essay         following queries:
      Examination, which was first administered in 1988.
                                                                    (1) For any given bar examiner-drafted essay
      The Multistate Essay Examination, for the past 18
                                                                        question, is the board confident that the
      years, has been a three-hour examination containing
                                                                        bar examiner is competent to practice law
      six essay questions.3
                                                                        in that area and that the question has been
          One can hardly question the proposition that                  fully researched before it appears on the
      questions drafted by a committee composed of bar                  bar examination?
      examiners, law professors, and practicing lawyers,
                                                                    (2) If law professors are engaged to draft
      along with a consultant providing testing expertise,
                                                                        questions, what time allotment are they
      would be more desirable than the questions drafted
                                                                        given per question and how fresh is their
      through the state-based methods. Nevertheless, if
                                                                        material likely to be?
      one looks at the current use of the MEE by only 19
      jurisdictions,4 one can only assume that most of the          (3) With respect to committees that are draft-
      essay questions given on bar exams continue to be                 ing questions for multistate exams created




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
           by the National Conference of Bar Exam-
           iners, is there assurance that questions are
                                                                        SUPPORT FOR CHANGE
           developed with a variety of new and cur-                     IN INDIANA
           rent legal issues or is there sufficient                     by Mary Godsey
           turnover on those committees in order to
                                                                        The greatest value of the Council of Bar Admission
           assure fresh ideas for questions?
                                                                        Administrators always has been its ability to provide
      (4) What relevant studies have been under-                        a group of experienced individuals who are available
           taken in recent years to make sure that                      at all times to assist other administrators by generous
           the content of the essay questions used on                   sharing of expertise and steady mutual support.
           bar examinations is relevant to the practice                 Jurisdictions vary according to size and local inter-
           of law?  5
                                                                        ests, but all administrators have common issues with
                                                                        board members, applicants, law schools, courts, and
      During my time as a bar examiner for the State of
                                                                        bar associations. Of course, after hearing about prob-
Illinois, I was deeply concerned about the drafting of
                                                                        lems that other jurisdictions are facing, I am often
essay questions. Having now recently become an
                                                                        reminded of my great-grandmother’s expression
adjunct professor at a law school in Chicago, and
                                                                        that it is “better to stay with the Devil you know.”
having gained more detailed knowledge of the per-
spective of applicants and their assumptions about                          How the CBAA has always been filled with help-
bar examination questions and their relevance to the                    ful individuals from every jurisdiction is a mystery.
practice of law, I continue to have that concern. I                     While some of these individuals have come and gone
would encourage more states to utilize the new MEE                      during the years, the character of the individuals has
questions or to develop their own study or checklist                    remained the same. I have never asked a question of
to assure that their drafting of essay questions meets                  or sought assistance from fellow administrators
today’s changing standards of relevance.                                without receiving prompt and sound advice willing-
                                                                        ly given. Beyond that, I have consistently received
ENDNOTES                                                                sympathy, kindness, and understanding in the
1.   Brenner, BAR EXAMINATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS       FOR   ADMISSION   responses—when all of the administrators are
     TO THEBAR (1952) at 17-18.
                                                                        already busy. It is priceless to be able to contact hun-
2.   THE BAR EXAMINERS HANDBOOK (1968) at 175.
                                                                        dreds of other administrators, character and fitness
3.   In 2007, the MEE will be expanded to nine questions, with
     jurisdictions able to select the questions they wish to adminis-   investigators, and bar examination managers that are
     ter—see 75 BAR EXAMINER 6 (Aug. 2006).                             involved in similar work because for most of us there
4.   Perhaps the new MEE will be utilized by more states.
                                                                        is no one else within the jurisdiction that shares the
5.   What is relevant today? See, for example, “Business Intel-
     ligence: ‘The Long Tail’ Wags Legal Minds,” LAW TECHNOLOGY         same kinds of challenges. It has always been so.
     NEWS (9/11/06).
                                                                            Some things have not always been as good as
                                                                        they are now. I think our Indiana Bar Examination
                                                                        has been improved. Indiana has always had consci-
                                                                        entious board members who worked hard on writing




                                                                                         ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
      and grading fair questions and always gave the test                                    MARY GODSEY is the Executive
                                                                                             Director of the Indiana Board
      their best efforts. When I started working for the                                     of Law Examiners.
      Indiana State Board of Law Examiners in 1982, the
      bar examination consisted of 28 essay questions writ-
      ten and graded by the board members. Examinees                                         obtaining a legal edu-
      had to answer 25 questions, with each question                                         cation. But while grad-
      worth ten points and a passing score set at 175 out of                                 uation from a law
      a possible 250 points.                                                                 school is not achieved
                                                                                             easily, not all who
          Since 2001, Indiana has used the Multistate Bar
                                                                                             graduate will be suit-
      Examination, two Multistate Performance Test ques-
                                                                                             able    or   ready     for
      tions, and six Indiana essay questions. The current
                                                               admission at the time of graduation. In addition to
      system uses a total combined scoring system that is
                                                               those who cannot pass a bar examination, there are
      scaled to the MBE. In addition, Indiana requires a
                                                               those who have mental health issues, addiction or
      scaled score of 80 or above on the Multistate Profes-
                                                               abuse challenges, or other character and fitness
      sional Responsibility Examination.
                                                               issues that do not permit members of good con-
          This dramatic change did not occur quickly and       science to approve their licensing without conditions
      the decision to change was not made lightly. The         or supervision. Since Indiana has instituted condi-
      board and the Indiana Supreme Court spent years          tional admission, board members are better able to
      considering possible examination combinations and        deal with those difficult decisions that used to be
      passing scores and their possible consequences. The      limited to admitting, denying, or deferring admis-
      resulting change was due to a belief that the test       sion of applicants. The ample articles, discussions,
      combined the best of all testing worlds existing at      and programs on these matters presented by both the
      that time. I don’t know that different people have       CBAA and NCBE aided Indiana in creating a suc-
      passed the current Indiana Bar Examination than          cessful program of conditional admission while
      would have passed the former examination. I do           avoiding painful errors in this sensitive area.
      know that an intelligent choice was made after much
                                                                   Jurisdictions have benefited from the expansion
      consideration of expert testing information and
                                                               of the National Conference of Bar Examiners in other
      advice. The availability of the CBAA members and
                                                               ways. Not every jurisdiction can afford to hire its
      the NCBE experts made that entire process possible.
                                                               own experts. The experts at NCBE are available and
          The same kind of assistance that has been avail-     generous in providing advice and information. There
      able for bar examination issues has been available       is no request too small or large for their response. We
      from the Conference and the CBAA on character and        know that their patience is long, as many of us have
      fitness issues. Board members take seriously the task    had to receive the same information more than once.
      of protecting the public as well as having deep          The articles published in THE BAR EXAMINER have
      appreciation of the time, effort, and money spent in     provided detailed and scholarly information in a




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
reliable written reference form. The National               familiarity with the Conference to offer these few
Conference’s volunteers and employees are extreme-          thoughts.
ly gracious. It was not always thus. This organization
                                                                To pretend that there are not issues on which
has become better and better.
                                                            legal academics and bar examiners often disagree
    It is impossible to forecast how all the current        would be folly and would indeed draw into question
issues in bar admissions will be resolved or what           one’s credibility. Thus, it is better to acknowledge
new ones will arise. The organizations are better           those differences at the outset. Most recently, the
than ever, the past is informative, the present is inter-   hottest hot buttons have involved the raising of the
esting, and the future is unknown. Whatever the             cut score in many jurisdictions, and for years a few
future may hold in bar admissions, we who work              legal educators have believed that the bar examina-
in the field will be better prepared for having the         tion should be abolished entirely, either because of
CBAA and NCBE than we ever could have been                  the overall quality of the exam or because of its neg-
without them.                                               ative impact on our strong desire to have a more
                                                            racially diverse legal profession that would be,
                                                            because of that diversity, a better qualified profession
A PERSPECTIVE FROM                                          more capable of meeting the legal needs of all seg-

LEGAL EDUCATION ON THE                                      ments of society. For many educators there have also
                                                            been concerns about whether certain types of ques-
75TH ANNIVERSARY OF                                         tions (e.g., “Have you ever declared bankruptcy?”)
THE NATIONAL                                                are appropriate in examining an applicant’s charac-

CONFERENCE OF BAR                                           ter and fitness to practice law.

EXAMINERS                                                       While differences of opinion on these issues are
                                                            important and must be acknowledged, they do
by Carl C. Monk                                             not detract from, and indeed they reinforce, the
I am pleased to congratulate the National Conference        positive contributions of the National Conference of
of Bar Examiners on the occasion of its 75th                Bar Examiners, an organization that has enabled
Anniversary, and to offer a few thoughts on the work        legal educators and bar examiners to engage in con-
of the Conference from the perspective of a legal           structive dialogue on their differences. Sometimes
educator who has worked with the Conference for             that dialogue has been informal, but on repeated
the past fifteen years.                                     occasions the Conference and the AALS have
    I should begin with a caveat—there is much              cosponsored formal programs that have facilitated
work of the Conference with which I am not familiar         the dialogue.
or only vaguely familiar. Nevertheless, the cooper-             In 1995 the Conference, the AALS, the American
ative ventures in which the Conference and the              Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Ad-
Association of American Law Schools (AALS) have             missions to the Bar, and the Law School Admission
engaged in the past years have given me enough              Council cosponsored a program on the Americans




                                                                             ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
      with Disabilities Act at which testing accommoda-                                        CARL C. MONK is the Executive
                                                                                               Director of the Association of
      tions for law school applicants, law students, and
                                                                                               American Law Schools. He has
      law graduates taking the bar examination were dis-                                       worked on numerous projects
      cussed. A similar conference was repeated in 1997.                                       jointly sponsored by the AALS
                                                                                               and NCBE.
      These conferences helped law professors, bar exam-
      iners, law school staff, and others to see the difficul-
                                                                                                     In addition to co-
      ties faced by all of us in making decisions about pro-
                                                                                               sponsoring programs,
      viding appropriate accommodations while maintain-
                                                                                               the    Conference     has
      ing the integrity and fairness of our examinations for
                                                                                               also provided speakers
      all students and applicants.
                                                                                               for programs relating
          More recently, the Conference formed a Joint           to testing at AALS annual meetings. These presenta-
      Working Group on Legal Education and Bar Ad-               tions have demonstrated that bar examiners and
      missions with the AALS, LSAC, the ABA Section,             legal educators have access to a rich resource of
      and the Conference of Chief Justices. In 2004, these       information about how to design and grade a fair
      organizations sponsored a two-day conference enti-         and meaningful examination when they interact
      tled “Examining the Landscape of Legal Education           with the Conference’s top quality psychometricians.
      and Bar Admissions,” at which constituents of all the      And the work of those psychometricians has clearly
      cosponsoring organizations had an opportunity to           enhanced the quality of the various multistate exam-
      discuss the quality and legitimacy of testing in law       inations offered by NCBE.
      school admissions, in law school, and on the bar
                                                                     Conference publications also offer important
      examination. To be sure, there were sometimes heat-
                                                                 professional development opportunities to bar
      ed exchanges over initiatives like raising cut scores,
                                                                 examiners and others engaged in testing. The NCBE
      but the opportunity for dialogue created by the
                                                                 publications never fail to tackle the tough issues and
      Conference helped all of us understand the chal-
                                                                 raise awareness of concerns; consequently they, too,
      lenges faced by each other better than we did before.
                                                                 contribute to higher quality bar examinations and to
      Although this program was cosponsored by five
                                                                 the ability of bar examiners and legal educators to
      entities, the National Conference of Bar Examiners
                                                                 engage in constructive dialogue.
      agreed to staff the entire Conference and covered
      everything from the financial accounting to on-site            As I said at the outset, my work with the Confer-
      logistical arrangements. Each of the NCBE staff            ence is limited to the examples I have mentioned
      members with whom I worked in the context of pro-          above. Others can undoubtedly contribute more tes-
      ducing this program displayed the highest level of         timony than I to the many positive activities and
      professionalism, a good sense of humor, and a will-        accomplishments of the Conference, but my ex-
      ingness to go the extra mile to help registrants and       perience is clearly sufficient to enable me to salute
      speakers get the most out of the program.                  NCBE on its 75th Anniversary and to thank the
                                                                 Conference for its constructive interaction with the




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
legal education community. So, Happy 75th Anni-                                          BEVERLY TARPLEY is a former chair
                                                                                         of the Conference, a former chair of
versary, and best wishes for many more good years!                                       the Texas Board of Law Examiners,
                                                                                         and a former chair of the ABA
                                                                                         Section of Legal Education and
                                                                                         Admissions to the Bar.
CONTINUING
PROFESSIONALISM                                                                          strong and mutual. At

by Beverly Tarpley                                                                       least two members of
                                                                                         the NCBE Board sit on
When I joined the Texas Board of Law Examiners in
                                                                                         the Section Council,
1975, George Barrow was the chairman and profes-
                                                                                         the Accreditation Com-
sionalism was the order of the day. His generation
                                                          mittee is chaired by an ex-NCBE chair, the Bar Ad-
accepted it as a responsibility of membership in the
                                                          mission Committee is chaired by one of our out-
profession. When I followed him to the NCBE Board
                                                          standing administrators, and NCBE folk people
in 1981, I found that same spirit. The name has since
                                                          many of the Section committees. Today NCBE is a
changed from the Board of Managers to the Board of
                                                          strong partner of the law schools of America in the
Trustees, but its members and fellow travelers are
                                                          process of admitting each generation to the best-
still dedicated to enhancing the profession without
                                                          trained bar in the world.
expectation of personal gain.
                                                              Our stable of tests has grown to four, with con-
    The National Conference was not an infant when
                                                          stant research and development to improve the qual-
I joined, but it was something of a gawky adolescent.
                                                          ity of each one. Yet while the tests are the most wide-
During the twenty-five years that I have observed it
                                                          ly known feature of the Conference, it was the char-
from almost every vantage point, I have seen it come
                                                          acter and fitness investigation function which first
to maturity. From a little-known group constantly
                                                          brought a valuable service to the jurisdictions and
endeavoring to justify its existence, it has moved to a
                                                          financial stability to the organization. After the first
strong, positive presentation of what it does and how
                                                          grant from the ABA, the Conference received a
very well it does it.
                                                          five-year diminishing grant from the Carnegie
    The Section of Legal Education and Admissions         Foundation to help fund its initial years of operation.
to the Bar of the American Bar Association gave birth     It was an official of that foundation who suggested
to the National Conference in 1931; the American Bar      that the Conference establish a character investiga-
Endowment gave grants in 1966 for a Bar Examiners’        tion service as a source of funding for its programs, a
Manual, and in 1970 and 1971 for the development of       service that began operating in 1931. With advances
the MBE. But there was a time when NCBE almost            in technology, the character and fitness service is
ceased to be a member of the ABA family, a period         now light years ahead of where it began. The collec-
during which both parent and child exhibited a lack       tion of jurisdictions using the service has varied over
of interest in maintaining the relationship. As we        the years, but it has remained a valuable and cost-
celebrate our 75th anniversary, the bond is again         effective tool for many loyal users.




                                                                           ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
          On a very personal level, the story remains the    labyrinth known (but not by many lawyers) as “psy-
      same. Strong lasting friendships permeate the          chometrics.” A nucleus within the Board became fas-
      fabric of the Conference. The Board members always     cinated by the idea of a valid means to “test the test.”
      worked hard, but they also looked forward to the       This nucleus did not include the late Paul E.
      camaraderie that would inevitably follow the work      Raymond, a member of the Board and a former law
      of each meeting.                                       school dean who was a recognized authority on the
                                                             Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
          For just a moment, we can pat ourselves on the
      back for having taken an interest and made it into a       Over time the nucleus grew. A slim majority
      strong positive force—and then we have to get back     voted for a “Sunday morning experiment.” A cadre
      to the work of staying ahead of the game.              of recently admitted lawyers was invited to
                                                             Tallahassee, each of whom had demonstrated superb
                                                             academic performance. Some held “machine-scored
      ITEM 32 AND THE LISTLESS                               testing” in contempt. They were asked to spend the

      AIR CONDITIONER                                        day submitting to tests that were capable of being
                                                             scored by electronic machines rather than humans.
      by Jim Tippin1
                                                             Each testing period would be followed by a critique
      It was about 1964, give or take. Complying with        wherein all comment would be recorded for the con-
      instructions from the Florida Supreme Court, the       struction of a transcript.
      chairman of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners
                                                                 The Florida Supreme Court had, quite recently at
      ordered me, the executive director of the Board, to
                                                             that time, built expanded facilities for its bar examin-
      find a way to administer an English writing test
                                                             ers. The air conditioning, however, was defective.
      around the world. I flew to New Jersey, where John
                                                             The builder was indifferent to my many pleas and
      Winterbottom of Educational Testing Service saved
                                                             threats. As space was not a problem, we were able
      the day. And in the process, he opened my eyes to
                                                             to accommodate, quite nicely, this diverse group.
      testing concepts previously unknown to us.
                                                             Early, and to my and the staff’s utter and pleasant
          It was about 1966, give or take, on the day of     surprise, Mr. Justice Campbell Thornal arrived.
      the Florida Supreme Court admissions ceremonies.       Intrigued by the mathematics and science associated
      That afternoon, a justice remarked that the Board      with the undertaking, he asked only that he be able
      must find a way to reduce the time between law         to observe as “a fly on the wall.” Within minutes of
      school graduation and admission. This, and more        settling in, wet around the neck of his freshly
      formal exchanges between the Board and the Court,      starched dress shirt, he urged me to do something
      generated a long and heated parliamentary debate.      about the air conditioning. I provided a thumbnail
          Again, John Winterbottom was a tireless and        sketch of my irksome conflict with the builders.
      invaluable resource. In the occupied and absorbed      Necktie off and sleeves rolled, Justice Thornal stayed
      minds of a group of mature, practicing lawyers, he     the course. His mere presence immeasurably added
      would attempt to locate space for the bewildering      to the success of that long day. And from this epic




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
                              JIM TIPPIN was the executive       decisions. In 1968, Board Chairman Raymond
                              director of the Florida Board of
                              Bar Examiners for 22 years and     became chairman of the National Conference of Bar
                              the California Bar Examiners       Examiners. At a large and open forum associated
                              for 13 years. He was the found-
                              ing chairman of the CBAA.
                                                                 with the annual ABA convention, he restated the
                                                                 foregoing episodes in a much more scholarly and at
                                                                 the same time significantly more humorous manner.
                              experiment       came      a       He campaigned for the expanded use of psychomet-
                              timid decision.                    rics within the national bar examining processes.
                                   The    Florida     Bar        The die was cast.
                              Examination would in-                    During a twenty-four hour period in February
clude queries, then recognized as “items,” on the                1972, Florida Board member and former judge John
subject of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. The             Germany visited the administration of the same
responses would be electronically scored at Florida              machine-scored bar examination in Florida, New
Atlantic University.                                             Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. What was its
    In the meantime, Paul Raymond had become                     label? The Multistate Bar Examination! In 1974 while
chairman of the Board. As a respected scholar, he had            he was chairman of the Florida Board, Germany
tolerated the “testing the test” intrusion, remaining a          became chairman of the National Conference.
diligent but amenable skeptic. He came to the post-                    Oh! By the way . . . about the office air con-
examination critique with an evaluation essay on                 ditioning in 1966? A platoon of workmen appeared
item #32. He insisted that the item was well written,            out of the early morning fog the very next day.
sought essential knowledge, and required analytical              Does anyone doubt the staff’s genuine affection for
thought. It had performed miserably! Why? “Due to                the now late Justice Thornal?
fatigue. That is the obvious conclusion,” Chairman
Raymond said. Time passed.                                       ENDNOTE
                                                                 1.   A bold “huzzah!” is in order for Mrs. Jean Williams of
    Fiscal limitations required the eventual reuse of
                                                                      Tallahassee. She served for many years as a program manager
items. Item #32 became item #1 on a subsequent ex-                    for the Florida Board. Her recall talent is renowned. Writing
amination. Its prior poor performance experienced                     this essay would not have been possible without my call upon
                                                                      her talent.
further decline. After that, Chairman Raymond was
quiet for a week or more during which, on an almost
hourly basis, he pressed the staff for data. At the end          A SERVICE ORGANIZATION
of this rumination, he called the Board together and
announced his conclusion. Based upon the surfeit of
                                                                 WE CAN COUNT ON
accumulated data, he had become convinced that                   by Dorothy Johnson

these late means to “test the test” did favor public             In February 1993, I administered my first examina-
protection while, at the same time, produced infi-               tion as Admissions Director for the Alabama State
nitely more defensible scores and thereby pass/fail              Bar and witnessed the beginning of my relationship




                                                                                      ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY     
      with the National Conference of Bar Examiners. At                                        DOROTHY JOHNSON is the
                                                                                               Admissions Director of the
      that time, we were averaging a week to 10-day                                            Alabama State Bar.
      turnaround time on our bar examination score
      conversion. We are now getting this information in                                           The NCBE testing
      less than an hour, thanks to the great staff at NCBE.                                    and technology staff
          The Conference is very service oriented. One of                                      assisted me in restruc-
      the most valuable services it provides is the opportu-                                   turing our grading sys-
      nity for bar administrators to network with other                                        tem in a fair and equi-
      administrators across the country. When I need the                                       table way when we
      advice of a colleague, I can confidently call or write                                   changed the scale for
      other administrators in the various states for their     scoring our essays from a 100-point scale to a six-
      suggestions or guidance on admission matters.            point scale. The NCBE folks were in constant com-
                                                               munication with our staff to ensure that the process
          The NCBE seminars and meetings create an             would go as smoothly as possible. As a result, the
      atmosphere for sharing valuable information and          scores from the July 2003 bar examination were cali-
      gaining greater insight into the admissions processes    brated perfectly and for the first time in 10 years, we
      across the country. For example, I have used the         did not have a single question from examinees about
      information on testing accommodations provided at        how the grades were computed.
      these meetings to develop guidelines for processing
      and evaluating our applicants’ requests for special          I continue to enjoy the relationship I have with
      accommodations.                                          the Conference. The NCBE staff has made my job
                                                               easier and I have made some great friends whom I
          In 2003, Alabama changed the format of the bar       will treasure forever.
      examination from a 12-essay examination to a 14-
      essay examination (6 MEE questions, 2 MPT items,
      and 6 Alabama essay questions). This change came         WALKING WITH THE
      after more than a year of study by a diverse commit-
      tee of the Alabama State Bar that included bar exam-
                                                               CONFERENCE
      iners, law school deans, and practicing attorneys.       by M. Carol McDonald
      The committee was convinced that the MEE and             It was nineteen years ago when I first learned that
      MPT were both of high quality and would fairly           the National Conference of Bar Examiners existed,
      measure an examinee’s minimal competence. In fact,       but the function of the Conference took some time
      the Alabama Essay Examination is modeled after the       for me to comprehend. New to bar admissions, I was
      MEE so that our essay components are consistent          still realizing that I was actually on the testing side of
      across the board. And despite the extensive comment      things, instead of the one who was always taking
      period required by our supreme court before the          the tests. I had, of course, heard of the dreaded bar
      change could be made, there were no unfavorable          examination, having worked with and for many
      comments about the proposed changes.                     attorneys before coming to work for the Idaho State




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
Bar. But to become a part of the attorney admissions                                    M. CAROL MCDONALD is the
                                                                                        Admissions Director for the
process was a new and different challenge for me, a                                     Idaho State Bar.
challenge that was lessened greatly by the donated
expertise of the NCBE staff.                                                            members,       and     two
    Idaho testing numbers were small and manage-                                        MPT items as the essay
able when I started, which was good since my little                                     portion of our exami-
staff of one was responsible for both admissions and                                    nation.
membership. NCBE was then housed in Chicago and
                                                                                             When she came to
the face and voice of the Conference at that time for
                                                                                        Idaho for the meeting,
me were those of Editor and Meeting Coordinator
                                                                                        Jane also introduced
Ann Fisher, with front man Daryl running a close
                                                          me to the CBAA. It was at her prompting that I
second (Daryl answered the phones and was always
                                                          attended my first meeting in San Diego, and I
entertaining). As time went on, I came to know a few
                                                          returned back to work armed with much information
more staff members, but because the Conference’s
                                                          and the realization that I was not alone in the world
services to Idaho were limited to providing the MBE,
                                                          of bar admissions. I also realized that the Conference
our exchanges were only occasional.
                                                          provided more than just the MBE and the MEE.
    Since Idaho doesn’t have a board of bar exam-         Through the Conference resources, the CBAA has
iners, all admissions matters are directed to the         continued to educate administrators and keep us bet-
Idaho State Bar Board of Commissioners, which is          ter informed in all areas of testing and admissions.
the body that oversees all state bar responsibilities.
                                                              Since Idaho is small in applicant numbers, staff,
In the early ’90s, it became apparent to the Board that
                                                          and resources, I have come to depend upon the
providing twelve essay questions for each exam was
                                                          Conference’s assistance in many other ways. I
asking a lot from the five volunteer members of the
                                                          remember that the San Diego seminar contained a
Bar Exam Preparation Committee. It was around the
                                                          session on something called test reliability. I came
same time that the Conference introduced the MEE.
                                                          back to Boise wondering how in the world I was
Hoping that this new exam might lessen the load,
                                                          going to understand that term, let alone put the
the Board invited the former NCBE director of test-
                                                          information to good use. With each subsequent sem-
ing, Jane Peterson Smith, to come to Boise and
                                                          inar I attended, I did garner some insight as to what
enlighten them as to the benefits of this new test. I
                                                          that topic meant, but it wasn’t until NCBE Director of
don’t think any Board members from Idaho had
                                                          Testing Susan Case came to Boise and provided a
much contact with the Conference before Jane’s
                                                          very clear and complete presentation to a small com-
visit, so not only did her visit solidify the Board’s
                                                          mittee reviewing the bar exam process, which
ultimate decision to adopt the MEE, but it also
                                                          included the Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice, the
opened the door for the MPRE, which Idaho began
                                                          president of the Bar, and the dean of the University
requiring in 1992. Today we use six MEE questions,
                                                          of Idaho School of Law, that the concept was solidi-
four other essay questions drafted by our committee
                                                          fied in my mind. Susan’s ability to explain scaling,




                                                                          ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
      converting, and reliability in layman’s terms ulti-       being old enough to remember back to the early days
      mately resulted in the addition of scaling to our         of the Conference than about my skill as a writer.
      process, and after hearing her explanation and that
                                                                    My first personal contact with NCBE was in
      of Director of Research Michael Kane, I am now
                                                                1980, when my predecessor at the New York Board of
      somewhat capable of explaining to applicants and
                                                                Law Examiners, Jim Fuller, backed out of an August
      others why Idaho is scaling its essays to the MBE.
                                                                meeting in San Francisco at which he was scheduled
      And it’s through the assistance of Kent Brye, the
                                                                to speak about New York’s experience with the MBE
      Conference’s IT director, that this final piece of the
                                                                and portability of scores. Believe it or not, New York
      puzzle is put in place after each grading session.
                                                                was a latecomer to the MBE, not participating until
          Idaho has grown in applicant numbers (and staff       July 1979. I had been with the New York Board for
      numbers—we are now two!) through either the bar           about 11 years by then, so I knew about the
      exam or reciprocity, as has NCBE grown, providing         Conference, but only from the vantage point of sub-
      guidance and expertise to Idaho along the way.            mitting expense vouchers for my board members,
      Besides adding the MPT to our cadre of tests, we          John DeGraff and Jack Holt-Harris, who were both
      send question drafters and graders to those topic-        very active in the organization.
      specific seminars as well as committee members to
                                                                    Anyway, about a week before the meeting Jim
      the Conference’s educational seminars. In addition, I
                                                                discovered that he couldn’t make it and volunteered
      served for a time on the NCBE Education Commit-
                                                                me to go in his place. While San Francisco was one of
      tee, which provided me more opportunities to learn
                                                                my favorite cities, I was not particularly excited
      and grow as an administrator.
                                                                about speaking before a group of people I had never
          All in all, it has been a smooth path that Idaho      met. To make things worse, the hotel where the pro-
      has walked with the National Conference of Bar            gram was to take place was completely booked, so I
      Examiners and we thank you for your contributions         had to stay several miles away. On the morning of
      to our admission process.                                 my presentation, I was a wreck as I left my cab and
                                                                walked into the hotel behind two women who
          Congratulations, NCBE, for 75 years of growth
                                                                seemed to be as confident as two fashion models on
      and guidance!
                                                                a runway. I later found out that they were Catherine
                                                                Baber and Linda Knight from Mississippi and were

      SOFTENING UP THE                                          also attending their first meeting. In any case, my
                                                                speech went well, everyone was very kind and wel-
      LEARNING CURVE                                            coming, and I was hooked on the organization.
      by Nancy Carpenter                                            I am grateful to NCBE for several things, the first
      When I was first asked to write for this special edi-     of which is its function as a teaching entity.
      tion of THE BAR EXAMINER I was flattered; later I real-   Everything I know about testing I learned through
      ized that the invitation was probably more about my       this organization. I went into my first job at the board
                                                                by virtue of having passed a civil service exam (for




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
                               NANCY CARPENTER worked for        accommodations. For example, there are invisible
                               the New York Board of Law
                               Examiners for 34 years, serving   disabilities, there are appropriate and not-so-appro-
                               as executive director from 1996   priate accommodations and the most obvious
                               to 2004.
                                                                 accommodation is not always the most appropriate,
                                                                 a person can be disabled but not need an accommo-
                               stenography, no less). I
                                                                 dation, sometimes the people with the most serious
                               learned that the board
                                                                 disabilities ask for the most minor accommodations,
                               members       and     their
                                                                 and some people are willing to exploit or even fake a
                               assistants (all lawyers)
                                                                 disability to obtain a major accommodation.
                               wrote the bar examina-
                               tion questions and that               Learning so much at each meeting triggered my
the staff of which I was a member typed them, had                desire to learn more. I can say with certainty that I
them printed, passed them out to examinees, collect-             never attended one that I didn’t get something out
ed the answers, and returned the answers to the                  of, sometimes from another administrator or bar
lawyers to grade. Some people passed and some peo-               examiner rather than from a speaker or presenter.
ple failed. As I began attending more meetings of the            When I became the director of the New York Board
CBAA and the Conference, though, I began to learn                in 1996, I can honestly say that I felt competent to
much more.                                                       hold that position, I was confident I knew what I
                                                                 was doing, and I was open to learning better ways
    I learned that there are actually criteria, or “spec-
                                                                 to do it.
ifications,” for tests. You don’t just make up a series
of questions; you need to know what you are testing                  Even with all the useful knowledge I gained,
for, whether your test is valid for that purpose, and            though, I have to say the thing for which I am most
whether the test is reliable, among other factors to be          grateful to the National Conference of Bar Examiners
considered. I saw demonstrations of computer-based               was the opportunity to make friends from all over
testing practically from its inception. Much to my               the United States, even as far away as the Northern
amazement, I saw numerous methods of cheating at                 Mariana Islands. Just being able to talk to people
a time when I was still naïve enough to think that               who share your problems regardless of scale is really
nobody would dare cheat on the bar exam! (Let me                 comforting at those times when you feel like your job
add, however, that during my tenure in New York, I               is one of the most thankless there is. When you have
never saw any sophisticated methods of cheating—                 law school deans coming at you from one side, and
our candidates opted for the old-fashioned “copy-                disgruntled law students (or worse yet, their parents)
off-your-neighbor” method.) Even before the Ameri-               coming from the other, it helps to know that someone
cans with Disabilities Act, I was aware that it was              in California, or Illinois, or Idaho, or Massachusetts
necessary and right to provide accommodations for                is going through the same thing. Name a state, and I
people with disabilities to make the examination                 can name the bar administrator of that state. Even
accessible to them, but believe me, I learned much,              more impressive is the fact that I probably consider
much more about the complexities of providing                    that person a good friend, and for that I am most




                                                                                 ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
      thankful for my association with the National                                          MARYGOLD S. MELLI is Voss-
                                                                                             Bascom Professor of Law
      Conference of Bar Examiners. Happy Anniversary,                                        Emerita at the University of
      NCBE! Keep up the good work.                                                           Wisconsin Law School. She is
                                                                                             a former chair of the Nation-
                                                                                             al Conference and currently
                                                                                             serves on its Editorial Advi-
      THE BEGINNINGS                                                                         sory Committee.


      OF THE MEE                                                                             ably, much of the atten-
      by Marygold S. Melli                                                                   tion and resources of

      In 1980 when I joined the NCBE Board of Managers                                       the Conference were

      (as the Board of Trustees was then called), I was very                                 devoted to that project.

      interested in working to improve the essay portion of    Yet I soon realized that those at the Conference were

      the bar examination. I had just completed two terms      equally concerned about improving the essay por-

      on the board that gave the Wisconsin Bar Exami-          tion of the examination, which bar examiners in most

      nation and I had learned firsthand of the problems       jurisdictions considered to be the core of the bar

      that drafting and grading essay questions presented      examination.

      to state bar examiners.                                      Since its founding in 1931, the Conference had
          Although Wisconsin is known (or is perhaps           sought to improve the quality of the essay questions
      infamous) for being the only state that does not         that the jurisdictions used in their exams. It had pub-
      require applicants for admission to take a bar exami-    lished articles in THE BAR EXAMINER and sponsored
      nation, that exemption is limited to graduates of        seminars on the problems connected with essay
      the two Wisconsin law schools. Therefore, graduates      question writing and grading. In fact, before em-
      of law schools outside of Wisconsin who seek admis-      barking on my mission to gather support for improv-
      sion to the practice of law in Wisconsin must take       ing the essay process, I read many of those articles
      the bar exam. Some might be surprised to learn that      carefully and learned from the seminars. I even
      Wisconsin gives its bar examination to more appli-       wrote a short description on “How to Draft an Essay
      cants than a significant number of jurisdictions; for    Question” for one of the seminars. I had also sought
      example, in 2005, of the 54 jurisdictions that admin-    help from the Question Library, a clearinghouse of
      istered the MBE, Wisconsin had more examinees            bar examination questions instituted by the
      than 16 other jurisdictions.                             Conference in 1952. This library contained questions
                                                               submitted by various jurisdictions to provide ideas
          At first I was somewhat pessimistic about the
                                                               for bar examiners drafting new questions for their
      prospects for essay exam improvement because the
                                                               own examinations. The quality of the questions—as I
      Conference had just eight years earlier revolution-
                                                               sadly learned—was very uneven.
      ized the bar examination process with the intro-
      duction of a multiple-choice, machine-graded exam-           But the more I learned of the process used
      ination that covered six basic subjects. Understand-     to develop the questions on the MBE, the more I




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
realized that many jurisdictions could not afford          secretary of the State Bar Board urged me to accom-
the resources needed to develop a similarly high           pany her to a meeting of the Conference. It was an
quality essay exam. Therefore, I became an early           eye-opener! When I took the bar, there was no
advocate of the development of the Multistate Essay        Multistate Bar Examination—at least not in North
Examination, which the Conference began work on            Dakota. There were only essay questions, three days
in 1982. The goal was to offer jurisdictions a series of   of essay questions drafted by the three members of
essay questions that had been painstakingly devel-         the Bar Board (now the Board of Law Examiners)
oped and tested along with comprehensive analyses          covering eighteen different subjects. I do not remem-
for grading the answers. The questions were de-            ber the questions but I do recall feeling grateful that
signed to be answered either using general legal           the title of the particular subject was listed at the top
principles or under the specific law of the jurisdic-      of the page for each set of questions, so if nothing
tion administering the test. The first exam was given      else, I at least knew the subjects on which we were
in 1988, about a year before I began my term as Chair      being tested.
of the Conference. I was, of course, elated.
                                                               The quality of bar examinations has improved
    In the years that have followed, adoption of the       greatly since that time, due in great part to the efforts
MEE has been slower than I had hoped; only about           of NCBE. North Dakota used the MBE for the first
a third of the jurisdictions currently administer the      time in February 1976. In July 1999 the Board ceased
MEE. The subject matter coverage of this test will         using a local essay examination and used both the
soon be increased to include the six MBE subjects as       Multistate Essay Examination and the Multistate
well as the traditional non-MBE subjects. This expan-      Performance Test for the first time. Although there
sion of test content may make the MEE attractive to        was a momentary feeling of loss of local identity, that
more jurisdictions. While established patterns are         feeling quickly dissipated when we realized the many
difficult to change, if jurisdictions come to recognize    advantages of a thoroughly vetted MEE and the abili-
the advantages of the outstanding process used to          ty to test practical practice skills through the MPT.
develop the MEE questions, perhaps more of them
                                                               Of course there were some bumps along the way.
will consider adopting it.
                                                           One case in particular comes to my mind. Our bar
                                                           examiners at that time required a passing score in
                                                           both the MBE and the local essay examination and
HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY,                                       did not combine the scores. On this occasion there
NCBE!                                                      were some irregularities in the administration of the

by Hon. Gerald W. VandeWalle                               MBE. One of our applicants had not received notice
                                                           of the change of location for the examination and
I was introduced to the National Conference of Bar
                                                           during the examination there were noise distur-
Examiners around the time of its 48th birthday,
                                                           bances caused by a meeting in the next room.
shortly after I joined the North Dakota Supreme
                                                           Additional time was given to complete the MBE.
Court. Our then Clerk of the Supreme Court and
                                                           One applicant did not obtain the minimum score




                                                                            ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY   
                                       HON. GERALD W. VANDEWALLE           courts and courts of appeals of the states, we have
                                       is the Chief Justice of the North
                                       Dakota Supreme Court and a
                                                                           learned at least the rudimentary basics of testing and
                                       former chair of the Conference      the significance of an examination that is itself con-
                                       of Chief Justices.
                                                                           tinuously tested to improve its accuracy and elimi-
                                                                           nate bias and unfairness in the testing process.
                                       on the MBE but did
                                                                               NCBE is a leader in character and fitness issues
                                       receive      a    relatively
                                                                           and its services are invaluable to the Board, especial-
                                       high grade on the es-
                                                                           ly when an out-of-state applicant applies for admis-
                                       say portion. After the
                                                                           sion. NCBE leads in the discussion of issues involv-
                                       Board informed the
                                                                           ing applicants with disabilities who are entitled to
      applicant that he would receive a negative recom-
                                                                           accommodations in the testing process. The special-
      mendation for admission, he pursued a formal
                                                                           ized knowledge NCBE acquires and shares with the
      review under the admission to practice rules, alleg-
                                                                           examiners and the admitting courts of the several
      ing that the high grade on the essay examination
                                                                           states makes a difficult task easier and provides a
      offset the failing grade on the MBE. The hearing
                                                                           level of uniformity that would not otherwise exist.
      examiner recommended that the Board give the
      applicant a favorable recommendation. The Board                          Reassuring, to me, is the NCBE initiative to con-
      adhered to its previous negative recommendation                      sider ever better methods for admission of applicants
      and the applicant petitioned the North Dakota                        to the bars of our states. As the methods by which
      Supreme Court for review of his application. The                     we learn change, as technology changes, as the
      case resulted in five separate opinions, four of which               practice of law itself changes, it is necessary that we
      approved admission. One of the opinions, not mine,                   keep abreast of those changes and adjust our stan-
      relied heavily on information supplied to the Board                  dards for admission to practice law accordingly.
      from Joe Covington, NCBE’s then director of testing,                 NCBE is our lodestar. Our courts, our law schools,
      noting that we were one of the few states that did not               our bar examiners, our lawyers, and our lawyers-to-
      combine scores and recommending that the Board                       come have and will continue to benefit from the
      combine the MBE and essay scores for purposes of                     Conference’s accomplishments. It is time to celebrate
      determining pass/fail status. Although the Board                     75 years of success.
      refused to change the scoring procedure for a test
      that had already been given, it changed its policy for
      the next examination.
                                                                           A PERSPECTIVE FROM THE
          I note the above case because for many judges
                                                                           NEWEST TRUSTEE
      the concepts of scaling and combining scores on the                  by Bryan R. Williams
      bar examination were foreign to us. NCBE realized                    For the past ten years I have had the privilege of
      the problem. Through a series of NCBE-sponsored                      serving as a member of the New York State Board
      seminars with the justices of the various supreme                    of Law Examiners, the body responsible for the




   THE BAR EXAMINER, NOVEMBER 
drafting, grading, and administration of the New                                         BRYAN R. WILLIAMS is in private
                                                                                         practice in New York; he is a
York Bar Examination. While a member of the New                                          member of both the New York
York Board, I became involved with the National                                          Board of Law Examiners and
                                                                                         the NCBE Board of Trustees.
Conference of Bar Examiners, first through my mem-
bership on the Multistate Bar Examination Policy
Committee, and later through interaction with vari-                                      proved to be invaluable
ous NCBE testing experts and other staff members                                         for many jurisdictions.
who have assisted the New York Board on a variety                                        In   New      York,     and
of test-related issues.                                                                  throughout the coun-
                                                                                         try, bar examiners face
    In August 2006, I was honored to be named as a
                                                          issues that go far beyond simply writing and grading
member of the NCBE Board of Trustees. As a private
                                                          a bar examination. New York is one of the largest
practitioner, I, like most lawyers, have limited time
                                                          U.S. jurisdictions in terms of the numbers of candi-
to dedicate to ventures that do not directly affect my
                                                          dates tested on each exam, and our bar examiners
daily practice. However, when given the opportuni-
                                                          write the essay portion of our exam. As such, the
ty to serve on the Board of Trustees, I readily accept-
                                                          issues central to the administration of the New York
ed. As the newest member of the Board, and a bar
                                                          exam, and the policy concerns in New York, may be
examiner from one of the larger jurisdictions, I have
                                                          somewhat different than those of jurisdictions who
been able to consider the important role that NCBE
                                                          test fewer applicants or whose examinations consist
plays in attorney licensing and the impact that this
                                                          entirely of multistate tests, but all jurisdictions must
organization has on the profession.
                                                          deal with issues such as standard setting, reliability
    Serving on both the MBE Policy Committee and          and validity of tests, and new and different testing
the NCBE Board has allowed me to associate with           methods. These issues are among the many for
dedicated volunteer attorneys who are willing to          which NCBE provides guidance and expertise.
give time and energy in order to enhance the legal
                                                              The New York Board is currently engaged in a
profession by ensuring that quality persons are the
                                                          controversial policy issue that has been visited by a
ones being admitted through our licensing process.
                                                          few other jurisdictions. The Conference’s assistance
My work with the Conference has already been
                                                          in performing demographic studies, as well as lend-
highly rewarding as it has provided me with the
                                                          ing its expertise in analyzing the data received, has
opportunity to give back to the legal profession
                                                          been invaluable to the New York Board.
while working with dedicated attorneys in a colle-
gial environment.                                             As the NCBE Board’s newest member, I look for-
                                                          ward to the strengthening of the tests that we pro-
    NCBE is well known for its production of the
                                                          duce and the challenges that these other testing
multistate components of the bar examination; its
                                                          issues will present both to the Conference and to bar
assistance to bar examiners and administrators, espe-
                                                          examiners in the years to come.
cially on testing issues, while lesser known, has




                                                                           ESSAYS ON THE CONFERENCE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY     

								
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