Academic Information

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  * IMPORTANT NOTEThe examples of state bar admissions rules and policies in these FAQs are for illustrative purposes only and may not reflect the current rules and policies of any particular state, since those can change frequently.  While some bar authorities are good about informing law schools of changes, many are not; thus, please check and continually re-check the requirements for any state you are interested in by going to that state bar office’s web site!Please be sure to check the current rules and policies of any state bar for which you are interested in applying for admission.

A first step in obtaining general information is to go to the web site of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.  This site has information on various exams that may be required for bar admission, and it also has links to most state bar authorities (including information for Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the Republic of Palau). 

Below are some questions and answers about general bar information:

Questions:

What is a bar exam, and when do I take that?

Do I need to do anything about bar registration or bar application before I come to law school or when I arrive at law school?

What do I need to do to apply for admission to a state bar?

When do I apply for the bar?

Are any other tests required?

Do I need to have taken the Law School’s Professional Responsibility course before I take the MPRE? 

What do I do if I have a disability and believe I may need accommodations for the bar exam and for the MPRE?

Do I need to take certain courses for bar admission, or are there restrictions on what I take or do in law school for bar admission?

How do I prepare for these exams?

Can I apply for admission to the bars of two states and take the bar exam for two states in the same time period?

I have heard that bar authorities ask applicants and law schools questions about a student’s character or fitness; is that true?


ANSWERS

What is a bar exam, and when do I take that?

A bar exam is something you take after graduating from law school as a requirement for admission to the bar of a given state.   The bar exam usually is given in February and July.  Most law graduates take the July bar exam after they graduate in May.  The bar exam usually is two or three days depending on the state.  Every state has different parts and requirements for their bar exam.  

  • Currently, almost every state requires that students take the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).  The MBE is a 200 question multiple choice exam that tests six subject areas:  Contracts; Torts; Constitutional Law; Real Property; Evidence; and Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure.  Note: beginning with the February 2015 exam, the MBE will also include Civil Procedure.
  • Each state also has an essay portion of the bar exam.   The bar information for each state will indicate which subjects may be tested on that state’s essay part of the exam, since this will differ by state; these subjects tend to include state law subjects and areas tested on the Multistate Bar Exam.   Some states, such as Massachusetts and New York, have essay questions from past bar exams on their websites to give applicants a sense of what the state essay portion of the bar exam has tended to cover.
  • Some states require applicants to take the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE).  This is an essay examination.  Areas of law that may be covered on the MEE include: Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies), Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Federal Civil Procedure, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates (Decedents’ Estates; Trusts and Future Interests), and Uniform Commercial Code (Negotiable Instruments (Commercial Paper); Secured Transactions). Some questions may include issues in more than one area of law.
  • Some states require a performance test as well.  For those that do, some (but not all) use the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).  The MPT consists of two 90-minute skills questions covering legal analysis, fact analysis, problem solving, resolution of ethical dilemmas, organization and management of a lawyering task, and communication.
  • Some states require the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).  The Uniform Bar Examination is prepared and coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners 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.

For more information on the above exams, see www.ncbex.org and go to “multistate tests.” 


Do I need to do anything about bar registration or bar application before I come to law school or when I arrive at law school?

It depends on the state.  Some states do require or request that law students register within a certain short period of time after they begin law school study; otherwise, they must pay substantially higher costs.  (See, e.g., California and Florida).  Other states may required registration during, e.g., the second or third year of law school.  (For example, currently Ohio requires both an application to register, which must be filed by a certain specified date in the second year of law school, and an application to take the bar exam).  Please be sure to check the bar admission rules of the state or states you are interested in applying to as soon as you start law school!

Some other states, such as California, prefer that students register with the bar sooner rather than later so that the bar can contact them with information and changes.


What do I need to do to apply for admission to a state bar?

Each state has different requirements; check with the bar authority of the state(s) you are interested in.  Again, a good place to start is the National Conference of Bar Examiners site, which has links to state bar admissions offices.


When do I apply for the bar?

This depends on each state’s requirements, which you must check and re-check for any changes, etc.  States require an application and fee by a certain deadline to take the bar exam; some also require a law student registration shortly after he/she begins law school in addition to an application to take the bar exam.   Some states that have a law student registration impose a large financial penalty if you do not complete the student registration.  Please check the state(s) you are interested in for their requirements and deadlines!  Note that states are very firm on their application/registration deadlines, and they will not grant extensions.


Are any other tests required?

Almost all states also require that students take and receive a specified passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which is administered on behalf of the National Conference of Bar ExaminersThis is a sixty question, two-hour and five minute, multiple-choice examination offered nationwide each March, August, and November. (Thus, this is a different exam from the bar exam).  The MPRE is designed to measure the examinee's knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer's professional conduct.  Each jurisdiction establishes its own passing score for the MPRE.  For information on the MPRE, see www.ncbex.org (go to multistate tests, then click on Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam; see also www.act.org/mpre).  You can take the MPRE in any state and have your score submitted to another state.

Students must separately register with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to take the MPRE.  Unlike the MBE, MPT, and the MEE, which you take after graduating from law school, many states, but not all, allow (and may require) students to take the MPRE before graduation from law school.  Thus, many law students take the MPRE after the second year of law school, but you should be sure to check the requirements of the state bar(s) that you are interested in to see when they require a specified MPRE score to be submitted.

NOTE: Some states (like Massachusetts) require that students have taken and received a certain score on the MPRE BEFORE APPLYING to the bar!  What that means is that students must take the MPRE while in law school and allow enough time to have their exam scored and the score reported before the bar application deadline.  Again, check the requirements for any state(s) you are interested in.  


Do I need to have taken the Law School’s Professional Responsibility course before I take the MPRE? 

No.  While some may find it helpful, it is not necessary.


What do I do if I have a disability and believe I may need accommodations for the bar exam and for the MPRE?

Each state has its own policies regarding accommodations for the bar exam.  The National Conference of Bar Examiners administers the MPRE.  If you are requesting accommodations for the bar exam or for the MPRE, and if the bar authority or National Conference of Bar Examiners requires that the Law School complete a form or submit a letter indicating whether you received accommodations while in law school, please contact Associate Dean Chris Marx, 4th floor.  Note that even if you received accommodations while in law school, the bar or the National Conference of Bar Examiners may not necessarily grant accommodations or, if they grant accommodations, the accommodations may not be what you received in law school.

Note that if you receive BU disability accommodations, bar exam processes may require that both BU Disability Services and Dean Marx complete forms because only Disability Services has information on the nature of the disability and the documentation that accompanied the request for accommodations.


Do I need to take certain courses for bar admission, or are there restrictions on what I take or do in law school for bar admission?

Generally, no, but it depends on the state.  Be sure to check the bar offices for state(s) you are interested in for any special requirements, such as requiring certain courses; limiting the number of non-exam graded course work, such as clinics; etc.  Ohio, for example, currently has the following requirement:  “A certificate from a law school or a continuing legal education sponsor, certifying that the applicant has received at least one hour of instruction on substance abuse, including causes, prevention, detection and treatment alternatives...” Since BU Law does not offer such a course, students planning to take the Ohio bar exam will need to arrange to take the course from a continuing legal education (CLE) provider.

New York, for example, currently limits the number of semester hours for courses related to legal training or clinical courses to a maximum of 20.  Again, it is essential to check and re-check the requirements of any state(s) you are interested in!

For those interested in the New York bar, there have been recent changes to bar admission requirements, including a specific requirement about Professional Responsibility.  The New York bar also may be adopting a 50 hour pro bono requirement; so please be sure to check the requirements.


How do I prepare for these exams?

The School of Law does not require that students take specified courses to prepare for the bar exam.  However, our first-year required courses form much of the core of what is on the MBE.  Also, many students naturally take courses in other subject areas that relate to the bar exam because those courses also provide a well-rounded legal education.  (These might include, for example, Trusts and Estates; Corporations; Commercial Code; etc.).

We also strongly encourage students to take a commercial bar review course after graduation to prepare for the bar exam.  The bar review course will provide detailed reviews of subject areas tested on the bar exam and will enable students to take practice tests.  These review courses cost money.  Please note that there are private loans that may cover the cost of a bar review course, the cost of the bar exam, and living expenses while you study for the bar; see the information under "Financing the Bar Exam" tab to the left of this page or contact the Law Financial Aid Office (13th floor) for details.  During the year student representatives from bar review companies will periodically set up informational tables in the Law School.  Please note that the School of Law does not endorse any particular bar review. 

While some students may also take a commercial review course before taking the MPRE, that is not required and is up to the student.

Note that some state bar admissions offices have questions from the essay portions of  prior bar exams available on their web sites.


Can I apply for admission to the bars of two states and take the bar exam for two states in the same time period?

A:  It depends on the states.  Some states will accept a score on the MBE part of the bar exam from another state as long as the MBE was a “concurrent exam.”  In that situation, an applicant would take one state’s essay exam in that state on one day; take the MBE in either state the second day; and take the second state’s essay part of the bar exam in that state the third day.  Obviously, this is intensive and not recommended unless you believe you can handle doing two state’s exams in a three day period (and the travel that is required).  Please make an appointment with the Career Development office to discuss the career implications of taking multiple bar exams.


I have heard that bar authorities ask applicants and law schools questions about a student’s character or fitness; is that true?

Yes.  All states ask both applicants and law schools questions related to the applicant’s character and fitness.  The questions vary.  Some states ask questions such as whether an applicant has been the subject of any disciplinary action.  Some ask if an applicant has been accused of a crime; others might ask if the applicant has been convicted of a crime.  Some ask if the applicant has been delinquent in any financial matters (which might include late repayments of loans). Some ask if an applicant has any substance abuse (e.g., drug or alcohol) problems.  Some ask very general questions about honesty, such as “Do you know anything that casts doubt upon the applicant’s character or fitness to practice law?”  The bottom line is that behavior before and during law school matters, since incidents that in college might have seemed minor and did not result in disciplinary action may end up having to be reported by the applicant and by the law school. 

Note that bar authorities can notice if a student was disciplined or had some other issue before law school (e.g., was cited for underage drinking) but did not report that on his/her law admissions application.  This can create problems for bar admission.  Thus, if you were disciplined before law school or were involved in something that you might have been obligated to report on your law admissions application but did not, please see Associate Dean Chris Marx immediately.  (Note that an applicant may not have been required to disclose something on the BU Law application because Massachusetts law restricts what applicants must be required to disclose.  If that is the case, the Law School can notify the bar authority of that.  Please check with Dean Marx if you have questions about this). 

If you have any questions or concerns about this, feel free to contact Associate Dean  Marx, Office of Student Affairs, 4th floor.  For Massachusetts bar admission issues related to character and fitness, another good resource is Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Massachusetts, tel: 617/482-9600.