This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, June 2016 (Vol. 85, No. 2), pp 2–3.
By Hon. Thomas J. Bice
Where has the time gone? This is the last Letter from the Chair that I will author during my term as NCBE chair. The year has presented many challenges but also many rewards, as we live in a time of change and transition.
I wish to express my sincerest thanks to the entire professional staff at NCBE for reaching out to me and giving me their assistance and counsel. NCBE President Erica Moeser has been there to advise and lead, and her efforts have been exemplary and greatly appreciated. The senior staff at NCBE has been loyal and dedicated to the continuing work of the Conference, and their work product has always been at the highest levels of professionalism. For all those involved in the day-to-day operation of NCBE—from testing to technology, from investigations to psychometrics—the effort and commitment to excellence are noteworthy. (My recent experience traveling to the May meeting of the NCBE Board of Trustees has made me especially appreciative of the NCBE staff—see my story about what turned out to be quite an adventure.) Finally, a special thanks to those who so expertly see that the Bar Examiner makes it to press on a timely basis with such high-quality content.
I also want to thank the members of the NCBE Board of Trustees, both past and present, for their support and collective advice. Certainly, at times we have agreed to disagree, but regardless of the position we take on a given issue, we all do so with a sense of sincere and deep commitment to the profession that we cherish. I thank each of you, as volunteers, for the countless hours that you have sacrificed to ensure the sound future of the legal profession and its commitment to integrity and competence.
A word of appreciation is owed as well to the bar administrators who interface between NCBE and the “real world” of Court rules and applicants. Your dedication, depth of knowledge, and patience are recognized and greatly admired. And a “tip of the hat” to the Courts and their boards of bar examiners, which continue to demonstrate confidence in NCBE and the use of its testing products—including the Uniform Bar Examination, which has shown remarkable growth.
The bar examination community faces challenges in the times ahead. The performance trend demonstrated over the past test cycles indicates a pattern of decline. These results have raised concerns within the legal education community and within the ABA, and the related issues are being studied and addressed with deliberation. Nevertheless, as bar examiners, we must focus our attention and concern on the current state of affairs, by which we contribute to maintaining the integrity and competence within the profession.
My year as chair was marked by the 85th anniversary celebration for NCBE held in Naples, Florida, earlier this year. Many past chairs of the Conference were in attendance and shared fond memories of their experiences on the Board of Trustees. On a bittersweet note, however, less than a month after that event we lost Beverly Tarpley. Beverly, a past chair of NCBE and longtime chair of its Editorial Advisory Committee at the time of her passing, was truly a pioneer within our profession and championed many worthy causes. I was humbled at being able to attend her funeral in Abilene, Texas, as a representative of NCBE and to share a positive moment in celebration of her remarkable life.
As my tenure as chair draws to a conclusion, I am reminded that NCBE and our profession as a whole are in a time of change. By way of illustration, plenary sessions at NCBE’s Annual Conference held this past April in Washington, D.C., included “Facing the Future of the Legal Profession: A Dynamic Time” and “The Legal Education Pipeline in Flux,” and group discussion sessions encouraged participants to consider “Designing the Bar Exam of the Future.” With change comes an element of uncertainty; however, as bar examiners, we need to embrace this opportunity for change and growth from a positive perspective as we work toward ensuring the highest levels of integrity and competence of those entering our profession.
Once again, a word of sincere thanks to all those who have been a part of this grand adventure in my serving NCBE as chair this past year. A special word of thanks to Bryan Williams from New York, who is leaving the Board of Trustees after having served a full term unselfishly and with dedication. And a word of encouragement and best wishes for our incoming NCBE chair, Bob Chong from Hawaii, as he assumes the leadership role for the term ahead.
I’ve enjoyed my term as chair and, most importantly, I’ve enjoyed the great people I’ve been fortunate to work with.
Best regards to all.
Hon. Thomas J. Bice
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