This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Spring 2019 (Vol. 88, No. 1), pp 56–58.

For the latest Testing Task Force news—and to sign up to receive updates with the latest Task Force news, research, and blog posts—visit www.testingtaskforce.org2019 Off to a Great Start for the Testing Task Force’s Study

2019 is off to a great start for the Testing Task Force, with substantial work under way by the two independent research consulting firms the Task Force selected—ACS Ventures LLC (ACS) and American Institutes for Research (AIR)—to support its three-phase study to ensure that the bar examination keeps pace with a rapidly changing legal profession.

Stakeholder Listening Sessions

In January and February of 2019, ACS facilitated 14 stakeholder listening sessions at four events: the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting in New Orleans, NCBE’s Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) Forum in San Antonio, the American Bar Association (ABA) Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas, and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) & NCBE Best Practices in High-Stakes Testing conference in Albuquerque.

So far, the Task Force has heard opinions from more than 200 bar administrators, bar leaders, state supreme court justices, practitioners, and legal educators regarding the current bar examination and its future direction. Additional listening sessions are scheduled for May and June, when ACS will conduct sessions at the NCBE Annual Bar Admissions Conference in San Francisco, the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Conference in Seattle, and prior to the start of the ABA Deans Workshop in Denver. Virtual sessions are also being planned.

Phase 1 of the bar examination study should wrap up this summer, and the input gathered from stakeholders around the country will help inform Phase 3, which will focus on bar examination program design and test components design.

Focus Groups

Woman at a microphone speaking to a group of people

Stakeholder listening session at UBE Forum in San Antonio

In February and March of 2019, AIR facilitated three focus groups in Chicago as part of Phase 2 of the Task Force’s research. The first session was for experienced lawyers who have supervised entry-level lawyers. Participants contributed by providing critical insights into emerging and declining practice areas, emerging and declining job tasks performed by entry-level lawyers, and ways that technology and other factors are changing the practice of law. AIR used the information from that session, the environmental scan it conducted, and NCBE’s 2012 job analysis to create draft lists of the tasks performed and the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics needed by entry-level lawyers to practice competently and ethically. (The environmental scan conducted by AIR involved reviewing the results of available studies, reports, articles, books, websites, and online databases to develop an initial list of tasks of newly licensed lawyers and the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics needed to perform those tasks.)

The second and third focus groups were composed of entry-level lawyers. Participants reviewed the draft lists that AIR had created and refined them based on how changes occurring in the practice of law relate to job tasks performed by entry-level lawyers.

Group of people sitting at a table and a woman standing holding papers is talking

Focus group facilitated by AIR in Chicago

The volunteers for all three sessions played a critical role in the methodology that AIR is using to craft a practice analysis survey. The survey will be piloted before it is distributed nationwide starting in June 2019. The results of the practice analysis will be available early next year and will also support Phase 3 of the study.


Thank You for Your Participation!

The beginning of 2019 has truly underscored the importance of stakeholders to the Task Force’s work. Although a lot remains to be done, the Task Force is energized and amazed by the number of people who are interested in participating in this important study to shape the bar examination of the future. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to collaborate and contribute.

Looking Ahead

The next major undertaking for the Task Force will be the distribution of its practice analysis survey. NCBE staff members are reaching out to state bar associations across all jurisdictions to request their assistance in distributing the survey to ensure that their members have the opportunity to respond and thereby contribute to this significant research initiative, the results of which will be informative not just for the bar examination but for the profession as a whole.

To keep up with the Testing Task Force’s study, we encourage you to subscribe at

Study timeline: Phase 1 is 9/2018 to 7/2019, Phase 2 is 9/2018 to 3/2020, Phase 3 is 2/2020 through 9/2020

NCBE’s Testing Task Force

The National Conference of Bar Examiners’ Testing Task Force, appointed by NCBE in January 2018, is charged with undertaking a three-year study to ensure that the bar examination continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required for competent entry-level legal practice in the 21st century. The study is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020. The Testing Task Force’s study will be comprehensive, future-focused, collaborative, empirical, and transparent.

Questions or comments?

Contact the Testing Task Force at

Contact us to request a pdf file of the original article as it appeared in the print edition.

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