Illinois may soon make it easier for out of state lawyers to practice in the state and local lawyers to head abroad. That’s because the state is considering getting rid of its unique bar exam and swapping it with a more basic, multi-state test that would allow lawyers who pass the test to practice law in any states that accept the results of the exam.
Currently, the multi-state exam is used by 25 states and Washington D.C. The multi-state exam tests basic legal competence and qualifies an attorney to practice in any area that embraces it.
“It increases mobility from out of state,” said Kyle McEntee, executive director of nonprofit Law School Transparency, based out of North Carolina . “If I take the bar exam in New York, I can more easily get to Illinois and compete with the lawyers in Illinois if I’m taking the uniform bar exam.”
Hearings In November
The Illinois Supreme Court has already stated that public hearings will be held to gather more evidence on whether Illinois should adopt the multi-state bar exam, and the Illinois State Bar Association voted 27-0 to support adopting the uniform bar exam. The Illinois State Bar Association supports the idea of a multi-state examine, suggesting that the new exam would make it easier for young lawyers to carry their law degrees across state lines to pursue job opportunities without needing to pass another bar exam.
Under the current system, out-of-state lawyers are allowed to practice in Illinois without taking the state’s bar exam so long as they have actively practiced for law for three years. However, younger lawyers or those without such experience aren’t as fortunate.
The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar will hold hearings throughout the state in November in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale to gather feedback from lawyers who are both for and against the change. Regina Kwan Peterson, the board’s director of administration, said the Illinois Supreme Court could make their decision within the first half of 2017.
New York, which prided itself on having the toughest bar exam in the country, adopted the multi-state test last spring, and the move was quickly followed by Massachusetts and Washington D.C. However, some other large legal markets, like Illinois, Texas, California and Florida all still have their own unique test. Illinois will soon decide if they’ll ditch their unique test and opt for the uniform test.
However, the test Illinois uses isn’t as unique as you might imagine. According to those who can compare the two tests, Illinois currently uses about 7/8ths of the uniform test for their exam, and the change would only affect three questions that are specific to Illinois for a secondary hypothetical writing assignment.