After graduating from law school, in order to practice law you will need to be admitted to practice in a specific jurisdiction. This involves an extensive application process and a multiple day examination (the “Bar Exam”) administered by the particular state board of bar examiners. Upon successful completion of the admission requirements, an applicant becomes a member of the state bar and is licensed to practice law in that state.
The Bar Exam is given, in most states, every February and July. The exam format and subjects tested vary by jurisdiction. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all students review the requirements of the state or states in which they would like to practice. Get details about the bar exam multistate tests, test dates, and pass rates on the National Conference of Bar Examiners web site.
Some helpful bar exam terms and definitions:
Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) – a six-hour, two-hundred question multiple-choice examination covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, real property and civil procedure (beginning in Feb. 2015).
Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) – a three-hour, six-question essay examination covering agency and partnership, commercial paper, conflict of laws, corporations, decedents’ estates, family law, federal civil procedure, sales, secured transactions, and trusts and future interests. Some states draft their own essays in addition to, or instead of, the MEE. Students are required to answer based on state specific laws.
Multistate Performance Test (MPT) – three 90-minute skills questions covering legal analysis, fact analysis, problem solving, resolution of ethical dilemmas, organization and management of a lawyering task, and communication.
Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) – Nebraska’s accepted test as of the February 2013 test date. The UBE is prepared and coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to test knowledge and skills that every lawyer should be able to demonstrate prior to becoming licensed to practice law. It is composed of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). It is uniformly administered, graded, and scored by user jurisdictions and results in a portable score. States adopting the UBE will easily accept score transfers from other UBE states. For a list of all states that have adopted the UBE, visit the NCBE website.
Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) – a sixty question, two-hour, multiple-choice examination administered three times each year. The MPRE is required for admission in all but four US jurisdictions: WI, WA, MD and Puerto Rico. With its adoption of the UBE in July 2013, WA will start requiring the MPRE. It is a separate examination from the Bar Exam administered by the NCBE. 3Ls should plan to take the MPRE no later than the November test date. The registration deadline for the November MPRE is typically mid-September. Registration information is available on the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.
Law Student Registration Requirements
Some states provide reduced registration fees for students who register early to take the bar in their state, in some cases within the first few months of starting law school. Please check your individual state requirements.
The following states encourage or require law students to register at the beginning of their first or second year of law school to sit for the bar examination. The states and their requirements follow:
- Alabama: Within 60 days of starting law school.
- California: Within 90 days of starting law school.
- Florida: Law students are encouraged, but not required, to register in the first year of law school.
- Illinois: By the first day of March following applicant’s commencement of law school (first day of July for spring semester matriculants).
- Iowa: By January 15 of the year the student commences the study of law in an accredited law school.
- Mississippi: By October 1 of applicant’s second year of law school.
- North Dakota: Law students must file a registration application by October 1 of the second year of law school, or 14 months after the first day of the first year of law school.
- Ohio: By November 15 of the applicant’s second year of law school.
- Oklahoma: By October 15 of the year following the year in which law study was commenced.