May 01, 2013

Winds of Change: The Challenges Facing State High Courts in Regulating the Practice of Law

By Chief Justice Myron T. Steele

The long-term trend toward more multijurisdictional and transnational practice creates challenges for state high courts, which have traditionally regulated the legal profession. Rapid changes in the profession have sometimes left regulators scrambling to catch up, as illustrated by the now-infamous Birbrower v. Superior Court decision. Some ongoing movements sponsored by the American Bar Association and state bars attempt to make cross-border practice easier, but regulators must ensure that the regulatory infrastructure catches up to the profession. This article considers the national regulatory implications of the Uniform Bar Examination and the international regulatory implications of increasing multijurisdictional practice.

Regulating a National Practice: Implications of the Uniform Bar Examination

The Uniform Bar Examination

One of the most basic ways that state high courts have regulated lawyers is by limiting bar admission through education, examination, and character requirements. Each state conducted a separate bar exam, and lawyers who wished to move between jurisdictions either waited and sought reciprocal admission or retook the bar. The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is up-ending the traditional process by offering a nationwide test and allowing examinees to transfer scores between jurisdictions.

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