calendar_today June 04 2024, By Pieper Bar Review


Updated June 04 2024. Originally published June 04 2024

For all of you keeping track at home, Illinois has officially announced its plans to administer the NextGen bar exam starting in 2028. This makes Illinois one of 19 jurisdictions committed to adopting the new exam format. Whether Illinois administers the NextGen exam in February or July of 2028 has not been decided. 

The NextGen bar exam is being developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which currently provides bar exam content for 54 of 56 US jurisdictions. This new exam will replace the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) currently used in over 40 jurisdictions including Illinois, maintaining the portability of scores between participating jurisdictions.

Key Features of the NextGen Bar Exam

The NextGen bar exam is designed to reflect the real-world tasks performed by newly licensed attorneys and will test nine areas of legal doctrine and seven foundational lawyering skills. The legal doctrine areas include:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Contract Law
  • Evidence
  • Torts
  • Business Associations
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Real Property
  • Family Law

The foundational lawyering skills to be tested are:

  • Legal Research
  • Legal Writing
  • Issue Spotting and Analysis
  • Investigation and Evaluation
  • Client Counseling and Advising
  • Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
  • Client Relationship and Management

Additionally, attorney ethics will be tested in conjunction with other topics and skills.

The exam will be balanced to reflect the skills and knowledge needed in both litigation and transactional legal practice. It will also align with key changes in law school curricula, particularly those that focus on clinical legal education, alternative dispute resolution, legal research, and legal writing.

Emphasis on Family Law and Trusts and Estates for Initial Performance Tests

The NCBE has also provided details on the inclusion of family law and trusts and estates in the NextGen exam. From July 2026 through February 2028, these subjects will appear on every NextGen exam as performance tasks and may also be included in integrated question sets. Family law will be tested with legal resources during this period and will become a foundational concept tested from July 2028 onwards. Trusts and estates will follow a similar testing pattern.

Administration and Duration

The NextGen bar exam will be administered over one and a half days, consisting of six hours of testing on the first day and three hours on the second day. This is a reduction from the current bar exam format, which typically spans 12 hours over two full days.

The subjects and skills to be tested were developed through a comprehensive, multi-year, nationwide legal practice analysis focused on identifying the most crucial knowledge and skills for newly licensed lawyers, defined as those within their first three years of practice.

For more detailed outlines of the legal doctrines and skills to be tested, visit the NCBE's official website at NCBE NextGen Exam Content Scope.