Tag Archives: law

Changes to New York and California Bar Exams

New York and California are well-known for their rigorous bar exams, and these exams are set to change during July 2016 in New York and July 2017 in California.

In the U.S., states have the freedom to develop their own licensing exam for the practice of law, a standard that has been in existence since Delaware created the first bar exam (consisting of essays) in 1763. Most bar exams continued to be mostly essays until 1972, when the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) was created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), and some states began using these multiple-choice questions as part of their bar examinations.

Twenty-four states are now using a common exam, called the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which usually includes a supplement with state-specific questions, as well. According to the American Bar Association (ABA),

“The most common testing configuration consists of a two-day bar examination, one day of which is devoted to the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a standardized 200-item test. The second day of testing is typically comprised of locally crafted essays from a broader range of subject matters; however, in a growing number of states, two nationally developed tests, the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), may be used to round out the test.”

If you are planning on taking the new exams in New York or California, here’s what you need to know:

New York Bar Exam

New York is switching to a standard test, the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. To see how jurisdictions set the policies on how the UBE is used in each state, click here. The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) has been in use in New York since 1979, and the Multistate Performance Task (MPT) was added in 2001, which is the last time the testing format was changed in New York.

New York will be the largest of the 24 states currently utilizing UBE. While each state participates in the same exam, they still have the opportunity to determine their own passing guidelines and create supplementary state-specific requirements. New York lawyers will be required to pass the uniform exam, which tests knowledge concerning the general principles of law, as well as an online course (NYLE) and multiple choice questions geared toward demonstrating a specific understanding of New York state law.

Currently, the New York bar exam includes about 200 questions from the multistate bar exam, as well as five essays on New York State law and 50 multiple-choice questions on New York law. Finally, there is a multiple state performance test. According to the New York Times, under the new exam plan, one day will still be devoted to the 200-question multistate bar exam, except now the first day of testing will have six essays and two “lawyering skills tasks.” There will be no testing on “unique distinctions in New York law,” which is a major shift away from the current state-specific bar exam. Significantly, only six years after the creation of the UBE exam, almost half of the states in our country will be using it.

Jenny Rivera, an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals and chairwoman of the advisory committee on the UBE, said the two new lawyering skills tasks should be an excellent addition and welcome alternative to the current standardized testing format. A performance task presents a file to the test-taker and requires them to complete an exercise that a lawyer does, such as write a memo or write a letter to a client.

The highly touted new benefit of the UBE is that it will enable new lawyers to apply for positions in multiple stateswithout requiring them to pass multiple state bar exams. According to New York’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, “The universal exam allows for better job prospects because it offers more flexibility.”

The UBE also solves two issues currently plaguing the bar exam process: fairness and other is cost. William Henderson, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law who studies the legal industry, argues, “We have federal law, there shouldn’t be different state bar exams, especially since the curriculum of law schools is mostly the same. States are throwing up the flag and are saying it’s too expensive to build their own exams. They’d rather have an expert body do it.”

California Bar Exam

For the first time in more than 25 years, the format of the California bar is changing. Currently a three-day process, the test will become a two-day exam in July 2017. The first day will be multiple-choice testing and the second day will focus on essays. There will be significantly less writing on the exam, as test-takers will complete five one-hour essays, instead of six, and the performance task will take 90-minutes, instead of six hours.

According to Derek Muller, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, the changes will not make California’s bar exam any less difficult, as scores will most likely be recalibrated to maintain testing rigor. However, it will make the test less grueling in terms of time. Additionally, the Committee of Bar Examiners is hoping the change to the exam will save money, which will lower testing fees, and hopefully speed the California bar’s notoriously slow grading process. According to the California Bar Journal, the change will save 1.1 million dollars a year and bring California in line with the majority of states that offer two-day exams.

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Is an MBA Joint Degree Right for You?

Due to an increasing demand for specialized education options, business schools are beginning to offer a greater variety of joint, dual, or concurrent programs. Many MBA applicants are looking to make themselves more attractive to selective employers by pursuing a degree that combines management capabilities with field-specific knowledge. Often, this involves an MBA being paired together with another graduate degree such as a law degree (JD), medical degree (MD), or doctorate degree (PhD).

Is a joint degree right for you? Collegiate Gateway is here to answer your questions, and equip you with the information you need.

What is a Joint Degree?

Sometimes referred to as a “concurrent” or “dual” degree, a joint degree is one in which a student enrolls simultaneously in two graduate programs, usually at the same school or at an affiliated university, and works towards two graduate degrees with the support of both programs. Some have a formal agreement to enable students to earn two degrees in an abbreviated period, while others even offer students the opportunity to create their own joint degree program. The University of Pennsylvania Law School, for example, allows its students to create their own programs with departments that do not have formal joint degree programs.

Importantly, students do not have to double their course load each semester while trying to complete a joint degree. Most programs allow students to focus on one degree at a time, and typically when a student takes courses in both programs, they are not expected to take more than a normal course load.

Joint degrees can be a combination of the following: law (JD), medicine (MD), doctorate (Ph.D or similar), professional masters (MPP, Ed.M), and academic masters. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the most popular MBA joint degree programs combine an MBA with the following:

  • Law
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Public Policy/Public Administration
  • Engineering
  • Technology
  • International studies

Is a Joint Program Right for You?

Before you consider applying, it is critically important to research the MBA joint program and come to a thorough understanding of why it would be best for you. Not only will this help you evaluate if the MBA joint degree is the best option, but it will also aid you immensely while writing your personal essay later on. Often, a good strategy is to look into the typical career paths that joint degree graduates usually pursue, and see if these careers are a good fit.

Everyone’s ambitions and circumstances are different, and there are various aspects to consider when weighing the pursuit of an MBA joint degree. Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

  • Competitive Advantage. Getting a dual degree may give you a competitive advantage in a specific field, as you would have a wider breadth of knowledge. No matter your intended profession, a strong foundation in business and management can only make you more appealing to employers and make it easier to transition to management or administration. However, if you simply want to practice in a particular field, it may not be necessary to pursue an MBA joint degree in order to be qualified to do so. For example, if you wish to practice non-corporate law, a JD degree will be sufficient, and an MBA may not be necessary. MBAs are designed for business management or administration, so if you do not intend to delve into these areas, an MBA joint degree may not the best choice for you.
  • Time Commitment. MBA joint degrees will most likely take a longer time to complete than a single graduate degree. While there may be programs that allow students to complete their degree in an abbreviated period, you should expect to stay in school longer. However, pursuing a dual degree is generally faster than pursuing degrees separately, as some courses fulfill requirements in both programs.
  • Cost. While getting an MBA joint degree would be more expensive than simply pursuing an MBA, it would be cheaper than getting a graduate degree, and then later deciding to obtain a second degree.
  • The Application Process. Typically, prospective students seeking an MBA joint degree have to complete two, or even three, applications. Students will most likely need to apply simultaneously to each graduate program, and possibly complete an additional application to the joint program itself. It is important to note that being accepted into a certain graduate program does not automatically qualify you, nor necessarily increase the likelihood of being accepted into the program with which it is paired. Acceptances into the graduate programs for a joint degree are decided separately. Applying to a less competitive program just to get into the counterpart program of a joint degree is not a recommended strategy.

Trends & Statistics of MBA joint degree programs

The various options of MBA joint degrees available has surged 54% over the past decade. However, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which started collecting dual-degree enrollment data in 2005, the portion of MBA students enrolled in dual degree tracks has never risen above 1 percent. In fact, that percentage has shrunk, from about 0.9 percent of MBA students in 2005-06 to 0.7 percent in 2010-11.

The JD/MBA joint degree is one of the most common joint degrees, and looking at the number of students that apply for the degree may give some insight into the total number of students who ultimately choose to pursue an MBA joint degree. In the 2012 testing year, the GMAC found that only 2,364 people took the GMAT with the intention of pursuing a JD/MBA—down from 3,397 in 2009. These numbers do not account for the people who did not actually end up getting an MBA/JD.

GMAT Exams Taken by Potential

JD/MBA Applicants

Testing Year


Testing Year


Testing Year


Testing Year


Total 3397 3046 2351 2364
Non-US Citizens 943 805 529 629
US Citizens 2454 2241 1822 1735


JD/MBAs At Top Schools: A Rough Portrait JD/MBAs, Class of 2016 JD/MBAs, Total
Northwestern 27 70
U. Penn 14 45
Harvard 10 35
Stanford 21*
Columbia 15*
Duke 5*
UC Berkeley 1*
*Admissions’ estimate

Source: Poets & Quants

However, these numbers are not a proper indication that MBA joint degrees are on a decline. In fact, the decline may be due to a diversification of the types of MBA joint degrees now readily available, industry-specific factors, and other specialized degree offerings. In 2014, Poets & Quants found that MBA joint degrees were on the upswing. Schools such as Yale have seen an increase in MBA joint degree applicants—in 2014, Yale set a record for its percentage of MBA students taking joint degrees, with 15% adding another sheepskin to their business master’s, up from 14% the previous year. 

What kinds of MBA Joint Degrees are out there? What are the newest programs that I should be aware of?

In the last year, several top universities have added new joint degree offerings.

In September of 2014, The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership—the nation’s preeminent organization of its kind, based at Teachers College, Columbia University—teamed up with Columbia Business School and with INSEAD to launch innovative MA/MBA dual-degree programs.

In October 2014, Stanford Graduate School of Business announced that it launched a new dual-degree program, where students can study for an MBA and a MA in International Policy Studies simultaneously.

In September 2015, Boston University began offering an accelerated three-year joint JD/MBA degree program similar to those at Cornell, Yale, Penn, Columbia and a handful of other schools.

The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University has formalized collaboration with the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai to offer a dual Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program. The program began to enroll students in the fall of 2015.

There are many differing MBA joint degree programs available from universities across the country. Collegiate Gateway has compiled a comprehensive list of all the programs available. Feel free to contact us to learn more about these programs and to discuss if an MBA joint degree program may be right for you – we are here to help!