The following information pertains to state bar examinations. Congratulations on reaching the stage where you turn your attention to the licensing process.
Please allocate sufficient time to determine which state bar is ideal for you to take, and to complete the necessary paperwork to properly register. For those who are uncertain about the appropriate state bar exam to take since you are still trying to secure employment, you may wait a bit longer to make your decision. You will have options on how best to proceed.
General State Bar Exam Overview
To be licensed to practice law, each state administers a 2-3 day examination at the end of February and July and makes determinations of character and fitness. In addition, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is a separate, 60 multiple-choice question, two-hour ethics exam offered in March or April, August, and November. The MPRE is required in all jurisdictions except Maryland, Washington, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico, and may usually be taken before graduation. Each state sets the score necessary to pass the MPRE in that jurisdiction.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners 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.
In addition to the MPRE, a state may use as many as three testing methodologies. First, an exam may consist of essay questions including the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). Second, many states require the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which entails three, 90-minute skills questions covering legal analysis, fact analysis, problem solving, communication, resolution of ethical dilemmas, and organization/management of a lawyering task. Third, all jurisdictions except Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and Washington, require the 200 multiple-choice question Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) on the following subjects, which also appear as essays: Civil Procedure (I and II); Constitutional Law (I and II); Contracts (I and II), Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Property, Torts, and Evidence. Thirteen states have adopted use of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) which is a combination of the MBE, MEE and MPT.
Character and Fitness
As required by ABA Standard 504, the following is submitted. 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.
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 this very important matter. If you have failed to disclose information to the law school, please contact Assistant Dean of Students Jason Belk ([email protected]) as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.
When To Begin the Bar Application Process
Although many bar application due dates are not until late April or May, please start 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. There may be documents you need that take weeks to gather. Please treat this application as if it were a security clearance. Students with disabilities should consult with Disability Support Services to secure necessary paperwork.
Documents You Will Need to Secure:
- JD Admissions Application
(available from the University Registrar) (email) (website)
- Certification Request from GW Law Records Office (email) (PDF)
- Certification Request from GW Registrar
(for CA, CO, CT, MD pre-legal form, NY, TX, UT) (website)
Be sure to confirm with the bar exactly what paperwork is required. Please 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 Certification Request indicating that California will be sending the bar form to the Registrar for completion. This is an important step in the California process even if a student completes an electronic release on-line. The Registrar is unable to accept the on-line release authorization for CA.
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.
Important and Practical Tips
As a general rule, employers understand that once you are licensed in another jurisdiction, for a fee you can waive into the DC bar without taking the examination as long as you have earned a specified minimum score on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).
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.
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.
Please 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 ncbex.org website for more information.
Important National Links
- http://www.ncbex.org - Provides direct links to all jurisdictions
- http://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Comp-Guide/CompGuide.pdf - Comprehensive bar examination guide. Downloadable file!
- http://www.ncbex.org/multistate-tests/mpre/ - MPRE Website
- http://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Information-Booklets/MPREIB2013.pdf - Comprehensive guide to the MPRE
Popular State Links
- Virginia: http://www.vbbe.state.va.us
- Maryland: http://www.mdcourts.gov/ble/index.html
- New York: http://www.nybarexam.org (NY Pro Bono requirement does notimpact students graduating in 2013)
- California: http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov
Partial List of Bar Review Courses
- Kaplan: http://www.kaptest.com
- Themis: http://www.themisbar.com
- BarBri: http://www.barbri.com/students/index.html
- Shemer: http://www.shemerbar.com (Maryland only)
Individual Bar Advising Appointments and Counseling
Associate Dean Renee DeVigne at [email protected] for overall guidance. General requests for documents may be sent to [email protected]. Specific questions about forms may be directed to Ms. Sara Wendell at [email protected]. The University Registrar may be contacted at [email protected]. GW Law Financial Aid at [email protected].
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