By Maureen Ryan Braley
The Idaho State Bar Admissions Department administers the rules governing admission to the practice of law in Idaho. Attorneys can be admitted by taking the Idaho Bar Exam, transferring a Uniform Bar Examination (“UBE”) score to Idaho, or through reciprocal admission (admission based on practice experience in another state). The Admissions Department also oversees limited admission to the practice of law in Idaho through a House Counsel license (working in-house for an Idaho employer), Emeritus Attorney license (limited license to do pro bono work), Military Spouse Provisional admission (servicemember spouse is stationed in Idaho), pro hac vice admission, and Legal Intern licenses.
Idaho Bar Exam Statistics
A record number of people took the Idaho Bar Exam in 2022. 93 people took the exam in February 2022 and 182 people took the exam in July 2022. The overall pass rate for the 2022 bar exams was 59.6%, which is down over five percentage points from the 2021 overall pass rate of 64.7%. The increase in bar exam applicants was due to the increased enrollment at Concordia University School of Law before its closure in the spring of 2020. Most of the Concordia students transferred to the University of Idaho College of Law and graduated in May 2022. Therefore, we will likely see a decline in the number of people taking the Idaho Bar Exam in 2023.
Reciprocal and UBE Admission Trends
As we know, Idaho’s population grew during the pandemic. We saw higher numbers of reciprocal applicants in 2020 and 2021, with 94 attorneys applying in 2020, followed by a record high 109 attorneys in 2021. Reciprocal applicant numbers returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, when 81 attorneys applied for reciprocal admission. Idaho has reciprocity with 35 jurisdictions. UBE applicant numbers have held steady at 50 per year since 2020.
NextGen Bar Exam
In 2018, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (“NCBE”), the entity that develops the UBE, created the Testing Task Force to determine the knowledge and skills entry-level lawyers should be expected to know and how that knowledge and those skills should be assessed on the bar exam. After several years of research, the Testing Task Force recommended that the NCBE develop what it refers to as the “NextGen Bar Exam.” The NCBE is currently conducting pilot and field testing and developing content scope outlines for the NextGen Bar Exam. The NCBE will finalize this work in early 2026, with the NextGen Bar Exam ready to be deployed for the July 2026 bar exam.
In February 2023, the Board of Commissioners of the Idaho State Bar created a NextGen Bar Exam Task Force to monitor developments with the NextGen Bar Exam and consider whether it should be implemented in Idaho.
Spotlight on Belinda Brown, Idaho State Bar Admissions Analyst
A law student’s or lawyer’s first contact with the Idaho State Bar occurs during the admissions process. And since 2009, that first contact has been with Belinda Brown, the Idaho State Bar Admissions Analyst. Belinda handles the intake on all applications for admission. She communicates with dozens of lawyers daily, answering questions about the admissions process and updating them about the statuses of their applications. She is patient, courteous and professional. I have learned a lot from her and am privileged to work with her.
Maureen Ryan Braley is the Associate Director of the Idaho State Bar and the Idaho Law Foundation. Her job duties include overseeing bar admissions in Idaho. She clerked for Chief Justice Gerald F. Schroeder of the Idaho Supreme Court and practiced law for six years in Boise before joining the Idaho State Bar staff in 2011. Maureen is a “double Zag” having earned an undergraduate degree in history and a law degree from Gonzaga University.