Missouri, two other states making early change to new, shorter online bar exam

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(The Center Square) – Missouri will be one of three states making an early transition to a new and shorter online bar exam for new lawyers.

Maryland and Oregon will join Missouri in launching the NextGen bar exam in July 2026. Wyoming is planning to launch in July 2027.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, developers of exam content for 54 of the 56 jurisdictions in the U.S., announced the transition will be complete throughout the nation after the February 2028 exam.

“When today’s first-year law students graduate, their entrance into the profession will be quite different from the one we experienced,” Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell said last month during the annual meeting of the Missouri Bar and the Judicial Conference of Missouri. “To meet employers’ expectations that their new hires will be practice-ready, a new bar exam is being created to enhance skills testing. The focus will be on applying skills to legal doctrine.”

The NextGen bar exam will continue to be administered and written portions graded by individual jurisdictions, according to information from the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

“The exam will be taken on examinees’ own laptops at in-person, proctored testing locations,” the organization said in a media release. “It will be divided into three sessions of three hours each, with each session containing two integrated question sets, one performance task, and two blocks of stand-alone multiple-choice questions. These three-hour sessions will be administered over one and a half days, with six hours of testing time on day one and three hours on day two. The current bar exam is typically administered in 12 hours over two full days.”

Details on how Missouri will implement the new exam are currently being developed, according to a media release from the Missouri Supreme Court. Missouri judicial leaders and the Missouri Board of Law Examiners are communicating with law school leaders about how to best prepare students for the new exam.

Judge Cindy Martin, a member of Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals, is chair of the implementation steering committee overseeing the execution of the project.

“She is highly regarded for her hard work, leadership and legal acumen on this major national project,” Chief Justice Russell said.

Judge Martin said Missouri has been a leader in embracing forward-thinking changes in attorney licensure as the state was the first to adopt a portable bar exam score.

“Missouri’s decision reflects trust and confidence in the research underlying development of the NextGen bar exam, which will emulate a ‘day in the life’ of a lawyer by integrating the assessment of core lawyering skills and foundational doctrine, consistent with the expectations of a newly licensed lawyer securing a general license to practice law in the interest of public protection,” Martin said in a statement released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

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