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Task force recommends changes to Indiana Bar Exam and grading system
Posted on: Feb 24, 2017

After more than a year of study, a task force convened by the bar associations in Indianapolis has concluded part of the Indiana Bar Exam tests on “fake laws” and the revised grading system may be forcing the Board of Law Examiners to fail more students.

The Indiana Bar Examination Assessment Task Force, formed in 2015 by the Indianapolis Bar Association and Marion County Bar Association, did a detailed analysis of the state bar exam and made several recommendations that it believes would better measure the competency of applicants to practice law in Indiana. It released its 215-page report earlier this year with the acknowledgment it is an independent group with little clout since it was not commissioned by either the state of Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court or the Board of Law Examiners.

Go here to read the report.

The task force advocates for keeping the essay questions and the short-answer Multistate Performance Test but reducing the weight of the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam component from 50 percent to 35 percent.

The MBE portion of the bar exam includes questions on criminal law, torts and real property that are not based on Indiana law or the laws of any jurisdiction. In addition to not measuring the examinees’ knowledge of Indiana law, the MBE is graded by an out-of-state entity over which the local bar examiners have no control.

The task force also reiterated concerns that the MBE testing-format may have a disparate impact on minorities. In a footnote, it cited data from Valparaiso Law School which showed that from 2009 to 2014, only 48 percent of the students identifying as minority passed the bar exam compared to 76.7 percent of the students who identified as white.

The task force concluded the current bar exam has several strengths, namely it covers important Indiana substantive and procedural law. Preparing for the essay and MPT questions forces examinees to undertake a deeper study of subjects they may not have been exposed to in law school. Also, the sections of the bar exam are in local control and are graded by a collection of practitioners, law professors and judges.

The task force also considered other ways to determine the competency of those who want a license to practice law in Indiana.

The task force maintains there is great value to the bar exam, so it did not support any kind of waiver to sitting through the two-day test. But, it did find some merit in a “Diploma Privilege Plus” which would encompass a limited bar examination component in addition to experiential testing.

Some members of the task force were in favor of returning the Indiana Bar Exam to an all-essay format. The last such version was administered in 2000 and had 20 essay questions covering national and Indiana topics.  One all-essay supporter on the task force was quoted in the report as saying, “The old exam worked well, it was not broken, and was superior to what we have now.”

In grading the bar exam, the task force offered several recommendations. Of special concern was the six-point relative grading system used for the MPT and essays proportions, which the task force described as a “force-ranking system” that drives examiners to spread the grades and potentially fail examinees who are still minimally competent.

Coupled with this, the task force recommended a reconsideration of the “borderline review” which was used until 2001. Essay scores that were close to the passing mark were automatically reviewed under the philosophy that assessing competency is not an exact science so some examinees should get a second look.

The task force also called for a review of the current appeals process. Examinees within nine points of passing can file an appeal to have their tests reevaluated. The task force raised questions if the appeals format in conjunction with the six-point forced-ranked scaled grading and fewer essay questions are offering less opportunity for a successful appeal.  

What happens now is unclear. The task forces concluded by saying it was submitting the report to “interested stakeholders” and would be willing to further discuss its contents or undertake additional study as needed.

Indiana Bar Examination Assessment Task Force Releases Report
Posted on: Feb 24, 2017

The Indiana Bar Examination Assessment Task Force has completed its 18-month study and issued its 82-page report. A collaborative effort of the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indiana State Bar Association, and Marion County Bar Association, the task force was formed with the mission to study the history and current state of the Indiana Bar Exam, consider national developments that might affect the Indiana Bar Exam, identify strengths and weaknesses in the current Indiana Bar Exam, and offer comprehensive analysis and recommendations on assessing competency to be admitted to practice law in the state of Indiana.

The task force, co-chaired by the Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson and John R. Maley, consists of 23 members diverse in gender, race, age, practice area, geography, background, and experience throughout Indiana. Task force members include judges, practitioners, former members of the Indiana Board of Law Examiners, law school deans, Indiana State Bar Association representatives, bar association leaders, and bar review lecturers.

The task force’s report found that since Indiana’s adoption of the Multistate Bar Examination, Indiana’s pass rate for bar applicants has dropped significantly from an 82 percent average from 1979 – 2000 to 72.8 percent from 2001 through 2016. The task force report offers multiple recommendations, including:

Indiana should continue to use the Indiana Essay component of the Indiana Bar Exam, as well as the Multistate Performance component.

Indiana should reduce the weight of the multiple choice Multistate Bar Exam questions from 50 percent to 35 percent.

Indiana should not presently adopt the Uniform Bar Examination.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners should be more transparent and forthcoming with data to allow states to more meaningfully assess the Multistate components of bar exams.

The full report with appendices is available at For further information, contact John Maley at 317-231-7464 or

The IndyBar and Marion County Bar Association Celebrate Black History Month
Posted on: Feb 24, 2017

During Black History Month and every month, the IndyBar proudly joins the Marion County Bar Association in celebrating our diverse judiciary serving in and around Marion County.

United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana

Hon. Denise LaRue
Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt

Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court

Hon. Rudolph Pyle
Hon. Robert Rucker

Marion Circuit Court Elected Judge

Hon. Sheryl Lynch

Marion Circuit Court Appointed Magistrates and Commissioners

Hon. Susan Boatright
Hon. Tamara Rogers
Hon. Tiffany Vivo

Marion Superior Court Elected Judges

Hon. Cynthia Ayers
Hon. Linda Brown
Hon. John MT Chavis II
Hon. Barbara Crawford
Hon. Shatrese Flowers
Hon. Clayton Graham
Hon. Grant Hawkins
Hon. James Joven
Hon. Marcel Pratt
Hon. Jose Salinas

Marion Superior Court Appointed Magistrates and Commissioners

Hon. Roseanne Ang
Hon. Mark Batties
Hon. Marshelle Broadwell
Hon. Geoffrey Gaither
Hon. Ronnie Huerta

Marion County Small Claims Court Elected Judges

Hon. Kim Bacon
Hon. Gerald Coleman
Hon. Garland Graves
Hon. Brenda Roper

Bill Watch Report for February 22 Now Available
Posted on: Feb 22, 2017

The practice-area specific Bill Watch reports for February 22 are now available. The reports highlight the pending bills of particular concern to different sections within the bar. See below for this week’s posts, and click here to access the full Bill Watch reports.

Business Law
Commercial & Bankruptcy Law
Criminal Justice
Estate Planning & Administration
Family Law
Real Estate & Land Use

Don’t forget: You can update your news subscriptions to conveniently receive information like the practice area-specific Bill Watch posts in your bi-weekly E-Bulletin! Click here to update your profile.

On Tap at the IndyBar: February 21 - February 24
Posted on: Feb 21, 2017

Everybody loves a local bar, so check out what yours is serving up this week with upcoming IndyBar events and happenings below!

On the Docket

Indiana ADR Rule Changes and Case Law
Thurs., February 23 from noon to 1 p.m.
Information and registration can be found here.

Ripped from the Headlines: Richmond Hill and the Defense of Monserrate Shirley
Thurs., February 23 from noon to 1 p.m.
Information and registration can be found here.

Breakfast with the Bar: Legal Careers in Public Interest
Fri., February 24 from 8 to 9 a.m.
Information and registration can be found here.


Check out the full slate of IndyBar events here, and don’t forget to check out the IndyBar on Facebook for the latest event photos.

News You Can Use

  • Stay Up to Date on Legislation that Matters to You with Bill Watch Reports - Save time and find the legislation that matters to you and your practice with IndyBar Bill Watch reports, now available for the 2017 legislative session. Access the reports here.
  • Send Luck to our Law Students! - We're wishing all students taking the Bar Exam today and tomorrow the best of luck. When you pass, remember to update your information with the IndyBar here!
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