Could you pass the Indiana Bar Exam? Try your hand at some questions…
By Bradley W. Skolnik | Executive Director, Office of Admission and Continuing Education
When the Office of Admissions and Continuing Education packed up this past December to move into its new offices, we made a fascinating discovery. Tucked away deep in our underground locked storage was an old box containing copies of the questions asked on Indiana’s very first bar exam, administered in October 1931.
That first exam consisted of 50 essay and short answer questions to be answered over the two-day period. The applicants answered 15 questions during both the morning and afternoon sessions on the first day and the morning session of the second day.
The Board required the applicants to answer only five written questions during the afternoon session of the second day but advised them that “[a]t the conclusion of the above examination, which should be completed in one and one-half hours, it is anticipated that the Board will examine orally any or all of the applicants and you shall remain in attendance until dismissed.”
A total of 91 aspiring lawyers sat for that inaugural exam. The filing fee back in 1931 was $15, which, accounting for inflation, is the equivalent of approximately $230 today.
The questions asked on the first exam focused on topics including: equity, sales, conflict of laws, evidence, corporations, partnerships, family law, torts, personal and real property, wills and trusts, contracts, negotiable interests, constitutional law, criminal law and civil trial practice.
One of my favorites is the following question, which provides a glimpse of the legal research materials commonly used by Indiana lawyers in the 1930s:
What are the chief uses and advantages to be derived from the use of:
- Watson’s Works’ Practice and Forms
- Watson’s McDonald’s Treatise
- Corpus Juris
- Thompson’s Notes to Indiana Decisions
- Shepard’s Indiana Citations
- Ewbank’s Manual of Appellate Practice
- Ogden’s Manual of Indiana Practice
- The Indiana Digest
While the Indiana bar exam is still administered over two days, much has changed since that inaugural exam. On the first day of the exam, applicants are now required to answer two performance tests in the morning session and six Indiana essay questions in the afternoon session.
The second day of the exam is devoted entirely to the Multistate Bar Exam, a standardized test developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), consisting of 200 multiple choice questions. More than 90% of applicants now use their laptop computers to answer the written portion of the exam.
In addition to the Indiana bar exam, applicants are also now required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibly Exam administered separately by the NCBE. And while all applicants are required to have a character and fitness interview, they should be relieved to know that they are no longer required to be examined orally as part of the bar exam.