Bar Application and Exam Information
NOTE ABOUT THIS WEBPAGE: The information provided below is designed as general guidance to help students get started on the bar application process. Because our students apply to a range of state bars, we cannot provide individualized guidance through this website. We also are not providing information on all state bar requirements through this website. We expect each student to take responsibility for researching the exam requirements and application process for the jurisdiction in which he/she plans to apply for admission. We urge students to pay careful attention to deadlines and to fully research the overall application process in his/her preferred jurisdiction.
Overview of Bar Application and Exam Procedures
In order to be licensed to practice law in any U.S. jurisdiction, applicants must apply for admission to the bar of that state’s highest court. Federal court admission comes later and may be granted based on an attorney’s active state license. Admission requirements vary from state to state, but all states require that applicants pass a bar examination and virtually all require that the applicant pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), and undergo a Character and Fitness evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Bar Certification process
Most states have adopted multiple bar examination formats given over a two-to-three day period at the end of February and the end of July.
The MBE is a 6-hour, 200-question, multiple-choice examination covering Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. The MBE is required for admission to the bars of all but two U.S. jurisdictions (Louisiana and Puerto Rico) and is administered by participating jurisdictions on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July of each year.
Other Standardized Bar Exams
Depending on the particular jurisdiction, the following standardized tests may be given in addition to or in lieu of the MBE.
- Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
The MPT consists of 90-minute tasks requiring the application of fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation. Skills tested are factual analysis, legal analysis and reasoning, problem solving, identification and resolution of ethical dilemmas, written communication, and organization and management of a legal task.
- Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
The MEE consists of 30-minute essay questions. Areas of law tested are Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Secured Transactions, Torts, and Trusts and Estates.
- The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE)
The UBE tests knowledge and skills that every lawyer should be able to demonstrate prior to becoming licensed to practice law. It is composed of the MEE, two MPT tasks, and the MBE. It is uniformly administered, graded, and scored and results in a portable score that can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions. UBE jurisdictions may impose additional requirements on applicants.
When to Apply
You should check individual state bar admission requirements for their bar exam deadlines, but frequently the deadline for the February bar exam is the preceding November and the deadline for the July bar exam is the preceding April. Keep in mind that it might take weeks to gather all the materials required in order to apply and many jurisdictions have no late filing option.
Application requirements vary from state to state and can include certification requests from Georgetown Law, a certified birth certificate, certified fingerprints and a certified writing sample. Other materials commonly required include your DMV record, credit record, and pro bono service affidavit (NY).
Bar Review Courses
While Georgetown Law does not endorse any particular bar review course, taking such a course is recommended given the large volume of material that will be covered on the bar exam. Listed below are links to popular bar review courses:
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
In addition to the state bar examination, most U.S. jurisdictions require applicants to take the MPRE for admission to their respective bars (currently only Puerto Rico and Wisconsin do not require it).
- The MPRE is a separate multiple-choice question exam containing 60 questions and given over two hours. Passing scores are established by each jurisdiction.
- Most states allow students to take the MPRE before graduation from law school. Thus, many students will take it after the second year of law school, but be sure to check the requirements of the state bar(s) for which you have an interest. The exam is offered nationwide each March, August and November. You can take it in any state and have your score submitted to another state. You do not need to know where you will be taking the bar exam when you take the MPRE. Your score can be sent to another state bar at a later date.
- Visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners website for more information.
Character and Fitness
In addition to a bar examination, there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to the bar in every U.S. jurisdiction. Applicants are encouraged to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction. Addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
Every jurisdiction requires bar applicants to meet the burden of showing they are of good moral character and otherwise fit to practice law. Problematic issues can include the existence of a criminal record, untreated mental illness, untreated substance abuse and financial irresponsibility. Bar examiners might also compare your bar application to your law school application and/or your supporting bar admission materials, and admission could be difficult if there are any omissions or contradicting information among these documents. If you have any questions or concerns about the character and fitness requirements, please contact Professor and Georgetown Law Ethics Counsel Michael Frisch at 202-662-9926 or at email@example.com.
- Reimbursement for Bar Exam Expenses by Employers
If you have already secured employment, get in touch with your employer to learn more about their policy on bar admission and expense reimbursement (including reimbursement of bar review courses). Please be aware that some employers will only provide reimbursement for bar-related expenses for designated state bars, and some do not provide any reimbursement.
- Bar Loans
Bar loans are private, credit-based student loans designed to assist students and recent graduates with the costs of preparing for and taking the bar exam. Interest rates on these loans are variable and none of these loans are eligible for Income-Based Repayment or Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Georgetown’s LRAP, however, will provide up to $100/month for Bar Loans (for incomes up to $75,000).
Disability-Related Accommodations for the Bar Exam
Each jurisdiction has its own requirements and deadlines to request testing accommodations for their respective bar exams. Such requests should be made well in advance of the deadline in order to allow sufficient time for review. Please be aware that the process of providing accommodations used by Georgetown Law is not necessarily the same for receiving bar exam accommodations. For additional assistance and information, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 202-662-4042.
Disability-Related Accommodations for the MPRE
Information about requesting accommodations on the MPRE can be found at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.
Information for Foreign-Trained Attorneys
For more information about applying for a state bar exam as a foreign-educated attorney, please check LLM Academic Services’ webpage.
Specific State Bar Requirements
Please be aware that state bars impose restrictions on the use of computers, and often require the download of certain software, during the bar examination. It is imperative that you check with your jurisdiction before your exam date.
DC is a UBE jurisdiction. DC is also unique in that you may take the bar exam in another jurisdiction, including a non-UBE jurisdiction, and waive into DC based on your admission in that jurisdiction. (This process can take up to a year.)
As of July 2019, Maryland is a UBE jurisdiction. You must file both a Character Questionnaire and a Notice of Intent to Take the UBE in Maryland to take the exam. You will also be required to review outlines and complete confirmatory questions (an online quiz) of a Maryland law component. Maryland also requires an in-person or electronic interview regarding character and fitness. For questions regarding this interview, please contact Professor Michael Frisch.
Massachusetts is a UBE jurisdiction. Notably, you must achieve a passing score on the MPRE before you may sit for the bar in Massachusetts.
The Texas bar exam is two-and-a-half days, and is offered in several locations throughout the state. Beginning February 2021, Texas will begin administering the UBE. As of August 2019, Texas has not yet determined when it will begin accepting transferred UBE scores from other jurisdictions, but it will likely be by July 2020.
The Virginia bar exam is administered in one location, generally not in Northern Virginia, each February and July. Note that the application and the character and fitness questionnaire must be received by the deadline, and you may file them as early as 90 days before the deadline. Please be aware that, in addition to the rules each state has regarding the bar exam, Virginia has a strict dress code.
New York is a UBE jurisdiction, but also imposes additional requirements. Besides passing the bar exam, you must also certify 50 pro bono hours and pass the New York Law Exam (NYLE). The New York Law Exam is offered four times per year, and requires you to register in advance, and to complete the New York Law Course.The application also requires a handwriting certification that you’ll need to work on with the Registrar’s office AFTER receiving the relevant paperwork from the bar.
Unlike most other jurisdictions, you will complete the Character and Fitness application after taking the bar exam.
You will also turn in your pro bono hour certification after the exam, but if you’ll need to certify DC-area internships or externships as part of your hours, you should begin the process while you’re still in DC. For questions, please contact Georgetown Law’s pro bono coordinator, Jen Tschirch.
Registration for the July NY Bar Exam typically opens April 1, with a deadline of April 30.
Be aware that not all test-takers may take the exam in New York City. The bar exam is also administered in White Plains, Albany, Buffalo, and Saratoga. After registering for the bar in April, you will receive an email (likely in May) listing all available locations for your test – please take the steps outlined in the email promptly, as assignments are made on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to registering for the California bar, you will also complete the Character & Fitness application. This part of the process can take 6 months or longer to be approved, so students should complete the C&F application before registering for the exam itself (consider completing this in January of your 3L year for a July bar exam).
The National Conference of Bar Examiners offers the most current information regarding bar admissions requirements and includes links to all 50 state bars.
Still Have Questions or Concerns?
Many students will have questions regarding which bar exam(s) to take. The answer is quite often unique to an individual’s personal circumstances. Plan on meeting with one of the counselors in the Office of Public Interest and Community Service or the Office of Career Strategy to discuss your strategy.
If you have any concerns related to the bar exam or your bar admission application, please contact professor Michael Frisch at 202-662-9926 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.