New Mexico adopts new bar exam for aspiring lawyers


Beginning in July 2027, law school graduates will take a new bar examination for qualifying to practice law in New Mexico, the state Supreme Court and the Board of Bar Examiners announced Monday.

The NextGen bar exam will replace the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which New Mexico has used since 2016, according to a news release. The UBE is used in 39 states plus the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands. New Mexico joins 12 other jurisdictions that have announced plans so far to adopt the NextGen exam, developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and making its debut in July of 2026.

In a statement, New Mexico Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon said the new exam “will place a greater emphasis on testing the skills fundamental to the actual practice of law rather than memorizing legal concepts and principles,” calling NextGen “a step forward in a continuing effort to ensure new attorneys possess the knowledge and lawyering skills to meet the legal needs of New Mexicans.”

Henry Alaniz, chair of the New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners, Board, wrote, “We are pleased to provide the University of New Mexico School of Law with ample opportunity to prepare their incoming students for the new exam. We look forward to the implementation of an updated bar exam which aims to ensure that our new attorneys are prepared for the practice of law.”

New Mexico administers the bar exam twice a year – in February and July – and that will with the NextGen exam, according to the news release. Law students beginning in the fall of 2024 and their schools will be able to prepare for the new exam over the entire three years of their program.

The NextGen exam will be administered over nine hours in a day and a half, the court stated, testing students on legal principles including contract and constitutional law, civil procedure and criminal law, evidence, real property, torts and business associations. The exam focuses on skills used by lawyers such as identifying and analyzing legal issues, negotiation and dispute resolution, legal research and writing as well as advising and counseling clients.

As with the UBE, the NextGen exam will include multichoice questions and performance tasks requiring test takers to apply lawyering skills to realistic scenarios. The NextGen exam also features questions that integrate a factual scenario with other legal resources, such as an excerpt from a statute or court opinion, and related documents such as portions of a deposition or police report.

The required online class in New Mexico law required for practicing in the state, covering topics such as Indian law, community property, professionalism and ethics, It will not be affected by the move to the NextGen bar exam, the news release said.

The Supreme Court oversees the admission and regulation of attorneys in New Mexico. The Board of Bar Examiners administers the bar exam and processes applications for admission to the practice of law in the state.

Bar exam, lawyers, law school, New Mexico Supreme Court