GW Law offers advising to its students and alumni on how to seek membership to various state bars. While this page is regularly updated, applicants are advised to confirm the information with the official web pages of the various state bars. It is each student's responsibility to research the bar admissions requirements for their intended jurisdiction.
In order to obtain a license to practice law, almost all law school graduates must apply for bar admission through a state board of bar examiners. Most often this board is an agency of the highest state court in the jurisdiction, but occasionally the board is connected more closely to the state’s bar association. The criteria for eligibility to take the bar examination or to otherwise qualify for bar admission are set by each state.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) is the best universal source of information about licensing. Details are provided about testing, reciprocity, and character and fitness, and links to all state bar exam web pages are available at: www.ncbex.org. This is the best link to all jurisdictions. Check carefully about each state’s requirements as they differ state to state and are subject to change.
Bar Admissions Overview
Licensing involves a demonstration of worthiness in two distinct areas:
The first is competence. For initial licensure, competence is ordinarily established by showing that the applicant holds an acceptable educational credential (with some exceptions, a JD degree) from a law school that meets educational standards, and by achieving a passing score on the bar examination. In addition, each state may have additional requirements for admission to the Bar.
For example, New York requires that applicants must:
- Take and complete an online course in New York-specific law, known as the New York Law Course (NYLC), and pass an online examination, known as the New York Law Exam (NYLE).
- Earn a score of at least 85 on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).
- Comply with the NY Skills Competency Requirement.
- Comply with the 50-hour Pro Bono Requirement.
The second area is a demonstration of worthiness to practice law. Because law is a public profession, and because the degree of harm a lawyer, once licensed, can inflict is substantial, decisions about who should be admitted to practice law are made carefully by bar examining boards. Bar examiners seek background information concerning each applicant that is relevant to the appropriateness of granting a professional credential.
The key to the character and fitness review component of the bar exam is full disclosure of information requested of each candidate. Most states review your driving record, employment history, credit status, physical and mental health status, and general compliance with the law. State bar examiners will compare your admissions application with your bar form disclosures. In your last semester, you should check to be certain that you have been fully forthcoming to the law school with information pertaining to your past. When in doubt, please consult with Professor Robert Tuttle ([email protected]) for confidential advising on whether a disclosure should be made.
Bar Application Basics
Although many bar application due dates are not until late April or May, you should begin working on your bar exam applications no later than February of the spring semester or August of the fall semester if you are graduating in December. Be sure to confirm with the bar exactly what paperwork is required. There may be documents you need that take weeks to gather. Treat this application as if it were a security clearance.
Documents You Will Need to Secure:
- JD Admissions Application (email the GW Law Admissions office and include GWID in the body of the email)
- Certification Request from GWU Registrar (for CA, CO, CT, ME, MD pre-legal form, NM, NY, TX certification of JD, UT) (website)
- Certification Request from GW Law Records Office (email) (PDF)
Be certain to fully complete and sign the documents that you need Records or the University Registrar to process to avoid delay. With respect to the California Bar Exam, students must sign the Registrar Electronic Request Authorization indicating that California will be sending the bar form to the Registrar's Office for completion. This is an important step in the process even if a student completes an electronic release through the California Bar. The GWU Registrar is unable to accept electronic signatures which are used by California.
Each state has different application requirements. For example, Virginia requires certified fingerprinting as part of the application process and New York requires a certified handwriting sample. In many instances, a notary is required for certain documents. For student convenience, two notaries are in the Dean's Office to provide assistance.
If you have already secured employment, contact your employer to determine their policy on bar admission and expense reimbursement, and whether they designate the state bar you should take. Some employers will only reimburse bar courses and exam fees for states in which they have an office. As a general rule, employers understand that once you are licensed in another jurisdiction, for a fee you can waive into another UBE state as long as you have earned a specified minimum score.
The Bar Exam
The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is a bar exam that is contemporaneously delivered in every jurisdiction that has adopted the UBE. It consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE). The UBE tests knowledge of general principles of law, legal analysis and reasoning, and communication skills – essentially, it tests the fundamental knowledge and lawyering skills that are needed to begin the practice of law. The UBE is uniformly administered, graded and scored, and it results in a score that can then be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions.
The UBE is administered on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. During the morning session on Tuesday (9:30 am to 12:30 pm), applicants are given three hours to complete two MPT items. During the afternoon session on Tuesday (2:00 pm to 5:00 pm), applicants are given three hours to answer six MEE questions. On Wednesday, applicants will take the MBE, which is a six-hour, 200 question multiple-choice exam divided into two three-hour sessions (9:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm).
Students seeking testing accommodations for the Bar Exam (or the MPRE) should review this Disability Support Services webpage.
Book your travel and hotel accommodations as soon as possible to ensure convenience and comfort. Several states cooperate to enable candidates to sit for more than one bar within the same week (e.g., NY and NJ). Consult the NCBE website for more information.
Loan funds are generally available to graduates to bridge a funding gap for summer or winter study for the bar exam. Please contact the GW Law Office of Financial Aid at 202.994.6592 or via email at [email protected], to schedule an appointment for more information about what is available and how to qualify.
Workshops are offered to provide GW Law students with the basic knowledge of the bar application process.
- Wednesday September 8, 2021, 3pm, Moot Court Room (L101) (Slides)
- Wednesday January 26, 2022, 3pm, Location TBD
For individual consultations regarding your bar application, contact:
LLM students should contact Melanie Orhant at [email protected].
General requests for documents may be sent to [email protected]. Specific questions about forms may be directed to Jo Jones at [email protected]. The University Registrar may be contacted at [email protected]. GW Law Financial Aid at [email protected].
- The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
- Directory of All State Bar Admission Agencies
- Law Student Registration, and Bar Exam Eligibility Before Graduation (Chart 1)
- State Character and Fitness Determinations (Chart 2)
- List of All States Which Have Adopted the UBE (Chart 5)
- Uniform Bar Examination Jurisdictions—MPRE Requirements, MBE Score Transfers, Courtesy Seating, and Attorneys’ Exams (Chart 6)
- Information about Non-UBE Jurisdictions (Chart 7)
- Non–Uniform Bar Examination Jurisdictions—MPRE Requirements, MBE Score Transfers, and Attorneys’ Exams (Chart 8)
- All State Application Deadlines and Fees (Chart 9)
- Minimum Passing Scores for All UBE Jurisdictions (Chart 10)
- Additional Pre- or Post-Admission Requirements and Continuing Legal Education (Chart 11)
- Admission on Motion—Based on Years of Practice and Definition of Practice (Chart 12)
- Admission on Motion—Legal Education and Reciprocity Requirements (Chart 13)
- DC Committee on Admission
- GW Bar Passage Rates and Employment Statistics