Published on February 8, 2022

NCBE Names New Chief Strategy and Operations Officer

Press Release

Marilyn Wellington Will Lead Organization’s Development of Next Generation Bar Exam Starting in June

MADISON, WISCONSIN, February 8, 2022—The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced today that Marilyn Wellington will join NCBE in June as its Chief Strategy and Operations Officer. Wellington, currently the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, will lead NCBE’s development and implementation of the next generation of the bar exam, which is scheduled to have its first administration in 2026. In addition to her work overseeing the new exam, Wellington will be responsible for guiding NCBE’s strategic initiatives and priorities.

Wellington succeeds Kellie Early, who will retire in June after 12 years as NCBE’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Strategy Officer. Early served as the project director for NCBE’s three-year Testing Task Force study of the bar exam, shepherding the study from conception to completion. As Chief Strategy Officer, she has guided the first year of work to develop and implement the next generation of the bar exam. Throughout her tenure at NCBE, Early has also overseen the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) program, which has grown under her leadership from 2 to 41 jurisdictions. Prior to joining NCBE, Early served for more than 10 years as the executive director of the Missouri Board of Law Examiners; in her role there she was a champion of the fledgling UBE, and as a result of her leadership, in 2011 Missouri became one of the first jurisdictions to administer the UBE.

"Kellie has been a remarkable leader for NCBE and the admissions and legal education community at large,” said NCBE president Judith Gundersen. “Kellie was instrumental in bringing the MPRE test accommodations operation in house, creating and promoting the NCBE Number, spearheading strategic planning, and, of course, leading the next gen bar exam project. Her contributions to NCBE and the profession will continue long after we’ve all retired.”

“We are incredibly fortunate to welcome in Marilyn Wellington as our new Chief Strategy and Operations Officer beginning in June of this year. Kellie and Marilyn have worked collaboratively for many years and will have ample time to ensure a seamless transition,” said Gundersen.

Wellington was appointed Executive Director of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in September of 2010. Prior to her appointment with the Board of Bar Examiners, Wellington held positions in nonprofit and public-sector organizations across the legal community, including as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Chief of Staff to the Massachusetts Trial Court System, and Principal Court Management Consultant for the National Center for State Courts. Wellington currently serves on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Steering Committee on Bar Admissions and its Standing Advisory Committee on Professionalism. She is the Massachusetts cochair for the American Bar Foundation’s Fellows Program and is a current member of the NCBE Board of Trustees, chairing its Character and Fitness Investigations Committee. She formerly served on the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, is a past chair of the Council of Bar Admission Administrators, and is past chair of NCBE’s Uniform Bar Examination Committee. Wellington is licensed as an attorney in Massachusetts. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Emmanuel College and her juris doctorate from the New England School of Law, both in Boston, Massachusetts.

About the Next Generation of the Bar Exam

In 2018, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) appointed a Testing Task Force charged with undertaking a three-year study to ensure that the bar examination continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent entry-level legal practice in the 21st century. In January 2021, NCBE’s Board of Trustees approved the Testing Task Force’s recommendations and began development of the next generation bar exam, with a timeline of five years for implementation. The new exam will place greater emphasis on assessment of lawyering skills to better reflect real-world practice and the types of activities newly licensed lawyers perform. NCBE is committed to ensuring a systematic, transparent, and collaborative implementation process, informed by input from and participation by stakeholders, and guided by best practices and the professional standards for high-stakes testing. For more information, visit

About the National Conference of Bar Examiners

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1931. NCBE promotes fairness, integrity, and best practices in bar admissions for the benefit and protection of the public, in pursuit of its vision of a competent, ethical, and diverse legal profession. It serves admission authorities, courts, the legal education community, and candidates by providing high-quality assessment products, services, and research; character investigations; and informational and educational resources and programs. For more information, visit the NCBE website at