By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The bar exam is a grueling two days of intensive test-taking. Most applicants spend three months or more agonizing over case law and statutes. Now, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has added an additional subject to the multi-state portion of the bar exam.
Beginning in 2015, civil procedure will now be tested on the MBE. Every lawyer-to-be, regardless of the state (with the exception of Louisiana), must take the 200 multiple-choice MBE, which generally tests six subjects: Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Constitutional Law, Evidence, Real Property and Torts.
After almost forty years of not altering the subject matters, the NCBE has decided to introduce one more.
Civil procedure defines the rules for making pleas, motions and discovery requests, for instance. "Civil procedure really is a fundamental, linchpin subject for lawyers," said Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. "It's a pretty non-controversial change."
“This is a very positive development,” Brooklyn Law School Professor James Park told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “Procedure is something that is fundamental to everything a lawyer does.”
A few Brooklyn attorneys were shocked that civil procedure had not been on the MBE. “Why wouldn’t civil procedure be on the Bar Exam?” asked attorney Joyce David. “Not all lawyers need it, but it seems like a perfectly reasonable topic that every lawyer should and needs to know.”
Attorney Nicholas Mundy did not understand how the bar exam could get by without having civil procedure as a tested subject. “It just makes sense and should have been there all along.”
While civil procedure will be new to the MBE portion of the bar exam, applicants for the New York State bar have always had to contend with New York civil procedure as a subject matter.
For some attorneys, civil procedure is an area of practice they may never again encounter outside of law school. “There are a lot lawyers nowadays who choose areas of the law that are far away from litigation,” noted Brooklyn lawyer Igor Dodin.
Domenic Famulari concurred. “I do not think that federal civil procedure is important unless you are practicing in federal court,” the Brooklyn attorney said. “The bar exam is hard enough. You do not need to pile on more work.”
Burden or not, bar applicants will soon have to contend with the added subject matter, and Brooklyn Law School professors look forward to preparing their students.
“I already go over procedure in my classes,” noted Professor Park. “I will, however, make sure to reemphasize the focus of procedure when reviewing case law with students.”
“We will likely add more civil procedure courses,” said Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard.
“Brooklyn Law School already has a robust civil procedure program,” Park said. “We have advanced civil procedure classes, and once we get some clarity as to the type of questions to be asked on the bar exam, I am sure we will incorporate new techniques in our civil procedure courses.”
Civil procedure may be a “dry subject matter,” as Dodin noted. But “if you do not know it,” Dodin continued, “as an attorney, you could find yourself in trouble later on down the road.”