NextGen Bar Exam: Family Law Goes National.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners Implements Significant Changes with Family Law on NextGen Bar Exam


The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has made a crucial decision to reintegrate family law into the NextGen bar exam. This move comes after valuable feedback from jurists who have expressed the growing need for a more in-depth focus on family law within the legal education and examination system.

Reintegrating Family Law into the NextGen Bar Exam

According to Judith Gundersen, president and CEO of the NCBE, the abundance of family law cases appearing on appellate dockets and in trial courts highlights the importance of this decision. This shift serves as a crucial step in addressing access-to-justice issues.

Marilyn Wellington, the chief strategy and operations officer at the NCBE, has highlighted the need to ensure that lawyers entering solo practice or small law firms in rural communities are well-prepared to tackle family law cases early in their careers. This adjustment seeks to empower legal practitioners with the knowledge and skills they require to serve their clients effectively.

When the NextGen bar exam debuts in 2026, family law will be a key component of the performance-based items in the multistate exam. Candidates will have access to essential resources for reference. However, it’s in 2028 when family law truly takes center stage as one of the nine areas of foundational concepts and principles. Test-takers will be expected to possess an in-depth understanding of family law and answer some questions based solely on recalled knowledge. For other questions, legal resources will be provided, as outlined in the NCBE content.

Positive Response to Changes

The legal community has responded positively to these changes. Naomi Cahn, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and co-director of its Family Law Center, stated that this shift acknowledges the fundamental role family law plays in the legal profession. With over 3 million family law cases filed in state courts each year, family law is a cornerstone of practicing law.

Concurrent Availability of Current and NextGen Exams

The NCBE has confirmed that the current bar exam, along with its components, will continue to be available to jurisdictions through the February 2028 administration. This means that the current exam and the NextGen exam will be offered concurrently for two full years, extending beyond the previously planned sunset date of July 2027.

Implications for State Bar Examiners and Legal Education

This shift is likely to prompt a reevaluation of legal education priorities at law schools, influencing what is taught in the classroom and when. State bar examiners now face a crucial decision: opt for the NextGen bar exam or adhere to state-specific assessments and adopt a more cautious, “wait and see” approach before embracing new standards.


The NCBE’s decision to evolve the NextGen bar exam and reintegrate family law into the examination process has far-reaching implications for legal education and the legal profession, reflecting a commitment to producing well-rounded and effective legal practitioners.

Keywords: National Conference of Bar Examiners, NextGen bar exam, family law, legal education, legal profession, access-to-justice, legal practitioners, solo practice, law firms, rural communities, state courts, legal resources, testing

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