Bar Exam and Bar Admission Information

Bar Exam Information
Qualifications for Admission to the Bar
MultiState Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
Patent Bar
Important Information for Students Who Plan to Take the New York Bar

Frequently Asked Questions

Bar Exam Information

The bar exam is offered twice a year in most states, once in February and once in July.

Most states’ bar exams are two days long, although in some states the exam is three days long. Depending on the states involved, you may be able to take two bar exams concurrently (see below).

Most states administer the Multistate Bar Exam on one of the days of the examination period. As of July 2013, every U.S. jurisdiction but Louisiana uses the MBE. 

Each state requires you to apply for the bar exam before you take it. Some states require that you register your intent to sit for their bar exam during your first year of law school. Start early and make sure you understand the requirements and deadlines for your state. If you do not have a specific state identified yet, talk to someone in the Career Services Office or the Public Service Center — they can help you narrow down your leading candidates.

It is your responsibility to understand and be aware of the bar exam requirements for your state/jurisdiction.

The Student Records Office cannot order a transcript from UREG on behalf of a student or former student. Moreover, if state Bar authorities need or require a transcript (for example, with an application for admission), it is the student’s responsibility to follow UREG’s procedures and instructions to ensure the ordering and delivery of a transcript. 


Qualification for Admission to the Bar

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.

State bar admission requirements and contact information for state bar agencies are published annually in the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and the American Bar Association (ABA)’s  Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.   

Deadlines and requirements do change from time to time, so you will want to consult your state’s bar admissions agency to make sure you have the most up-to-date information. The ABA also has general information on bar admissions that you may find helpful.

Bar exam applications can be very lengthy and time consuming to complete. Leave yourself enough time to collect all of the information and materials you will need to submit an application. Deadlines are strictly enforced.

Character and Fitness
A "Character and Fitness" process is required before admission to the bar. You will need to complete a detailed questionnaire that asks for a range of personal information. For examples of the kinds of questions you may encounter, the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners posts a sample form online; note that it is only a sample and not an authoritative list of character and fitness questions you must answer for your state. It is very important to review the questions on your state’s character and fitness form as early as possible. If you have questions or concerns about a question, please contact the Student Affairs Office to discuss your situation.

Law School Certification Form/Dean’s Certification Form
Many states require completion of a Law School (or Dean’s) Certification Form, which certifies your attendance here and that you are in good academic and/or disciplinary standing. Bring this form to the Student Records Office and allow a minimum of 3-5 days for processing. Make sure you understand clearly the deadline for receipt of the form, as the deadlines vary by state.

Certified Handwriting Sample
If your state requires completion of a certified handwriting sample, bring the blank form to the Student Records Office. You will need to complete and sign the handwriting sample in the presence of Student Records personnel, who can then sign the paperwork. Do not bring an already-completed writing sample to Student Records.

Notary Public
The Student Records Office has a notary public who can notarize documents for you. Bring your unsigned form to Student Records, where personnel can watch you sign the form and then notarize it.

The UVA Police Department offers fingerprinting services to students for a fee. Call (434) 924-7166 for more information.

If you are an Albemarle County resident, you can also get fingerprints at the county sheriff’s office for a fee. More


MultiState Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

The MultiState Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is a separate test required by almost every state bar for admission. The NCBE maintains an online list of jurisdictions that require the MPRE. Each state that requires the MPRE sets its own passing score. If you plan to take more than one state bar, make sure you know the passing score required by each state.

You may take the MPRE before you graduate, and in fact some states require you to take the MPRE before you take their bar exam. It is very important that you know your state’s requirements so that you understand the pertinent deadlines.

The MPRE is administered nationally three times a year, in March/April, August and November. Most law students take the MPRE in November of their third year. See the current list of dates and application deadlines.

You do not need to take the MPRE in the state where you will take the bar exam; you may take it in Virginia and most UVA Law students do so for convenience. Often, but not always, the MPRE is offered in Charlottesville in the spring; other Virginia test sites include Richmond, Tysons Corner, Falls Church and Williamsburg. The NCBE’s MPRE information booklet contains a list of test sites for each administration.

You do not need to take one of the Law School’s Professional Responsibility courses before you take the MPRE, although it may help you prepare for the exam.

Patent Bar

If you plan to practice patent law, the patent bar exam is required to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You may take the exam while you are a law student. The exam is a one day, multiple-choice, computer-based test. The USPTO offers the exam one day a year in Alexandria, Va.; the rest of the year, the exam is administered through a private test-taking company, Prometric. A list of Prometric test sites is available on the Prometric website or by phone (800-479-6369). Currently, the Prometric sites closest to the Law School are in Glen Allen and Lynchburg.

More information on the Patent Bar Exam requirements, administration and scheduling is available on the USPTO's website.

Important Information for Students Who Plan to Take the New York Bar

If you are considering taking the New York bar exam, please be aware of recent changes to the eligibility requirements for New York. The new eligibility requirements are available online from the New York State Board of Law Examiners

Academic Eligibility Requirements
J.D. Applicants
The New York bar’s new academic eligibility requirements for J.D. graduates are detailed in Rule 520.3 and described here.  These requirements apply in their totality to applicants who began the study of law after April 1, 2012.

It is your responsibility to read rule 520.3 in its entirety and understand its requirements.  Please note that among other things, there are specific requirements on:  the total number of credits taken; professional responsibility coursework; clinics, field placement and externships; the number of credits you may take in any semester; and the number of credits you may take outside of the Law School (including credits taken as part of a dual-degree program). 

If you have general questions, please contact the Student Records Office.

LL.M. Applicants
Please review carefully the eligibility requirements for foreign-trained lawyers who receive the LL.M. from UVA. 

Certificate of Attendance Form (J.D.s and LL.M.s)
Beginning in February 2013, all New York bar exam applicants will be required to file a completed Certificate of Attendance, which is available online from the New York State Board of Law Examiners. Review this form very carefully and note the information that you are asked to provide — you may find it easier to have your transcript in front of you when you complete the form.   

If you have general questions, please contact the Student Records Office.

Pro Bono Requirement (J.D.s and LL.M.s)
As of January 2013, all candidates who seek admission to the New York state bar on or after Jan. 1, 2015, must complete 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work before applying for admission to the bar. Admission on motion candidates are exempt.  More information on the requirement is available from the New York State Board of Law Examiners. The Law School’s Pro Bono Office can help you find qualifying pro bono projects.  

Frequently Asked Questions

If I have questions about the bar application, where do I go?
The Student Records Office can assist with general bar information. For state specific questions, check the state bar examiners’ website. If you cannot find your answer there, call the state bar examiners directly.

Who pays for the bar exam, study courses and materials, and living expenses over the summer?
Law firms
Many large law firms will pay for bar expenses of incoming associates. Practices vary by firm; if you have accepted an offer with a private law firm, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your firm will pay for, when and how. For example, some firms may reimburse you for covered expenses after the fact; others may pay some expenses directly to the provider. Some may give you a stipend to help cover your living expenses, whereas others may offer you the ability to take out an advance on your salary.

Public Service
Public service employers usually do not pay for the bar exam or a bar exam prep course.

What do I do if I cannot afford bar exam costs?
Some private lenders offer bar study loans for the 6- to 12-month period immediately following graduation.  The Law School's Financial Aid Office can provide you with resources on loan options., one resource, maintains an online chart of private student loan options (scroll to the bottom of the screen). If you have questions or need help, contact the Law School’s Financial Aid Office the spring before you graduate, if not before.

Can I take two bar exams on consecutive days?
Whether you can take two state bar exams back-to-back depends on (a) the length of each bar exam (two days vs. three); (b) the days they are offered (Tuesday/Wednesday; Wednesday/Thursday); and (c) whether the states will accept a MBE score from a concurrent exam. You will also want to be mindful of travel issues on the middle day.

Most states administer the Multistate Bar Exam on one of the days of the examination period. As of July 2013, every U.S. jurisdiction but Louisiana uses the MBE. 

What is reciprocity?
Some states require practicing attorneys licensed in another jurisdiction to take their state bar examination to be admitted to their bar. In other states, if certain conditions are met, a licensed attorney may be admitted with lesser testing or by motion. The policies and procedures vary from state to state. The Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions contains detailed information on admission by motion, reciprocity, comity and attorneys’ exams.

Not all states offer reciprocity. If you think that you will move/be transferred to a different jurisdiction during your legal career, you should pay attention to each state’s rules now.

What if I do not know where I will practice?
If you don’t know yet where you will practice, and don’t know which bar exam you should take, contact Career Services or the Public Service Center. You should be able to narrow your list down to a few states, so that you can understand the requirements in each and make an informed decision.

Which bar exam prep course should I take?
The Law School provides a list of several bar exam prep companies and their contact information for your convenience. Many will come to the Law School each semester to promote their services.

The right bar review course will depend on you. You will want to find out how the programs structure their courses — some are offered by video/live lecture to a group of students in a classroom; others offer a self-study model.

What are "table days"?
The Law School gives bar exam prep companies limited rights to solicit in the Law School building. Twice a year, the law school will host "table days" during which bar exam prep companies can come on site to promote their courses. Bar prep companies' representatives will be available to meet with students at the tables in Hunton & Williams Hall.

Virginia Law Policy on Solicitation by Bar Exam Prep Companies

What if I do not pass the bar?
Many successful and bright attorneys did not pass the bar exam on the first try. If this happens to you, do not panic. Do not give up.

Do contact the Career Services Office/Public Service Center or the Student Affairs Office. You will want to take the time to figure out what went wrong so that you can prepare differently the next time, and they can help you with this.

If you have accepted a job offer, you will need to notify your employer — the Career Services Office/Public Service Center can work with you on how best to handle this. If you took a bar exam prep course, contact them as well, as they should have policies and programs in place to help you.

What is the New York pro bono requirement?
As of January 2013, all candidates who seek admission to the New York state bar on or after January 1, 2015, must complete 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work before applying for admission to the bar. Admission on motion candidates are exempt. Opportunities to satisfy this requirement while in law school can include (1) working on qualifying pro bono projects arranged through the Law School’s Pro Bono Office and/or (2) providing qualifying legal assistance through several of the Law School’s clinical courses.  It is your responsibility to determine whether your service activities will qualify as “pro bono service” as defined by the New York State Board of Law Examiners.  More information on the requirement is available from the New York State Board of Law Examiners.

What is the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and what subjects are covered?
The MBE is a multiple choice exam that covers the following subjects: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. Effective with the February 2015 administration of the MBE, civil procedure will also be covered. All states but Louisiana use the MBE as of July 2013.

— Current as of Aug. 30, 2013