Maryland Carey Law contributes to development of NextGen bar exam

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The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law is supporting student success by helping develop a better bar exam.  

Maryland Carey Law volunteered to host the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) NextGen bar exam field testing in January. Several students in their final year and recent graduates took the exam. Additional test takers brought the total to 65 participants. The exam offered questions of the type being considered as the NCBE prepares for NextGen’s debut in July 2026.   

“We were honored to be a site for field testing the NextGen bar exam,” said Maryland Carey Law Dean Renée McDonald Hutchins. “Being involved in the development of a fairer, more relevant bar exam is the right thing to do and gives us an inside perspective on the changes coming down the pike for our students.”  

The bar exam has long been criticized by the legal community for focusing too heavily on rote memorization rather than the skills required to be a good lawyer. The new exam promises to address these issues by testing “a broad range of foundational lawyering skills, utilizing a focused set of clearly identified fundamental legal concepts and principles needed in today’s practice of law,” according to NCBE’s website. NextGen is also being designed “to balance the skills and knowledge needed in litigation and transactional legal practice” and "reflect many of the key changes that law schools are making today, building on the successes of clinical legal education programs, alternative dispute resolution programs, and legal writing and analysis programs.” 

In a letter to Hutchins, Judy Gundersen, NCBE president and CEO, wrote, “The data and feedback we received from this effort are crucial to the development of the new exam.” She also expressed thanks to Micah Yarbrough, Maryland Carey Law’s director of academic achievement and bar preparation programs, for organizing and administering the test at the law school.  

According to Yarbrough, participation in the development of the NextGen exam “is an essential building block” in Maryland Carey Law’s strategy to support students in passing what will be the “principal gatekeeper” to admission into practice in many jurisdictions. The state of Maryland, where most Maryland Carey Law students sit for the first time, already has plans to be an early adopter of the new test.  

It makes sense then, from an institutional perspective, to take every opportunity to monitor NextGen's development and shape the experience wherever we can,” said Yarbrough.