Bar Exam Information
To obtain a license to practice law, almost all law school graduates must apply for bar admission through a state board of bar examiners. Each state establishes the criteria for eligibility to take a bar exam or otherwise qualify for admission to its bar. Licensing involves two areas: competence and character and fitness. Competence is generally established by meeting the proper educational requirements and passing the bar exam. Character and fitness involves the review of background information on applicants that is relevant to the appropriateness of granting a professional license.
Bar Exam Format
The Bar exam is generally offered in February and July. The format for the Bar exam varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, it is most often a two day exam with the first day focused on questions tailored for practice in that particular state or jurisdiction, and the second day consisting of the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE), a 200 question, 6-hour multiple choice exam that covers constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, evidence, real property, and torts. Students should contact the board of bar examiners in the state(s) in which they are thinking about practicing in to obtain specific information about the exam format, fees, deadlines and applications. The National Conference of Bar Examiners publishes a comprehensive guide on bar admissions requirements at www.ncbex.org.
Law Student Registration
Most bar application deadlines will occur during your final year of law school. Deadlines vary so students should check with the board of bar examiners in the state they intend to practice. Be very careful in reviewing fee schedules. Late registration can result in substantial penalty charges and could even cause the applicant to lose the opportunity to sit for the bar in the time frame he/she wishes. Some jurisdictions, including Missouri and Illinois, offer or require law student registration at an earlier point in law school. Often, the earlier registration allows for a substantial savings in the bar exam fee. Check with the state bar examiners to see if an early registration is required and/or available.
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
In addition, almost all jurisdictions require that the applicant present an acceptable score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) a sixty-question, 120-minute, multiple choic exam. This exam is separately administered three times per year, in March, August and November, which most students sit for upon completing a course in ethics or professional responsibility. Each state establishes it’s own passing score and requirements, therefore students should check with the board of bar examiners of the state in which they intend to practice. Also note that there may be an expiration date as to your MPRE score; make sure you know when it is before you decide when you will take the MPRE.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ILLINOIS BAR APPLICANTS: An Illinois applicant must have earned the lesser of 60 credit hours or two thirds of the credits required to obtain a JD degree from his or her law school before sitting for the MPRE; for most applicants, this means that the MPRE may be taken no sooner than August preceding commencement of the final year of law school. No exceptions to these requirements are made.