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Unemployed Or In a Rut? Play the Odds by Taking The Uniform Bar Exam

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

One of my friends, years into his legal career, is still doing doc review in New York. Another one is working for a small firm in Southern California and hates his debt-ridden life. You see, in the major legal markets, there are still very few jobs, even for those of us with a couple of years' worth of experience. And for recent grads? Forget it -- there's nothing entry-level in the major markets.

Maybe it's time to rethink geography. When I graduated, I figured homeless on a beach beat sleeping on frozen streets, but maybe, just maybe, aiming for a crowded marketplace isn't the best move. In fact, why not aim for, say, fourteen marketplaces? This is the appeal of the Uniform Bar Exam: one test, one score, with portability to more than 20 states.

Many States, Some of Which You've Heard Of!

In 2011, when my classmates and I graduated, the UBE was barely a pipe dream: two states (North Dakota and my native Missouri) had adopted earlier that year in February, with Alabama offering it for the first time that July. Truth be told, that isn't exactly a compelling case for portability, unless, of course, you're from those states.

Each year, however, the list has grown, and as of this month's administration, twenty states offer the UBE, with more on the way.

You've got your choice between southern comfort, living free or dying, sipping coffee in Seattle, Spring Training baseball (and ugh, heat) in Arizona, skiing and "other things" in Colorado, enjoying untainted America in Montana, or best of all: Kansas City barbeque.

A Bit of Portability

It's not as simple as "What's up Mizzurah? Colorado says I'm all good." Each state has its own character and fitness exams and sets their own passing scores and rules for transferability. On the bright side, the passing range (from 256 in Alabama to 280 in Idaho) means if you fail in one state, you might be able to sneak into a different state with the same score. On the other hand, states can also set expiration dates on scores, so you'll want to check dates and apply for admission while your score is unexpired.

Basically, what the UBE really gives you is a year or two of flexibility: as a recent grad or someone stuck in a career rut, you can take the test, hope for a high score, and then apply anywhere in the UBE states-- with only some paperwork and a character and fitness exam as your obstacles for admission.

Editor's Note, July 5, 2016: This post was first published in July, 2014. It has since been updated.

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