Bar Exam and Bar Admission Information

NOTICE: It is an applicant’s responsibility to understand and be aware of the licensure and other bar admission requirements for a jurisdiction, and any student interested in gaining admission to practice in a particular jurisdiction is strongly advised to find and understand the jurisdiction’s application and eligibility requirements. Eligibility criteria may include certain pro bono requirements as well as academic requirements, which may include professional skills training. The following information is intended to be used as a resource, not as a substitute for inquiring with a jurisdiction directly.

Overview of Licensure Procedure

Obtaining a license to practice law (also referred to as being “admitted to the bar”) in a jurisdiction is governed and overseen by each jurisdiction’s Board of Bar Examiners (or a similarly titled entity). Thus, each jurisdiction’s licensure requirements vary, but the process typically involves the following elements:

Quick Resources

UVA Law will not notify students of the deadlines and requirements for each jurisdiction, but here are some useful resources for finding answers:

Bar Exam Information

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

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

Most jurisdictions administer the Multistate Bar Exam on one of the days of the examination period.

Each jurisdiction requires you to apply for the bar exam before you take it and have strict deadlines. Some jurisdictions (although not most) 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 jurisdiction. If you do not have a specific jurisdiction identified yet, talk to someone in the Career Services Office or the Public Service Center — they can help you narrow down your leading candidates.

Bar Application Components

While the requirements for each jurisdiction vary, these elements are typically required:

Academic Eligibility
Some jurisdictions require only that the bar candidate have a degree from an ABA-accredited law school, but some specify minimum and/or maximum types of credits in various categories of courses (e.g., in-classroom vs. non-classroom, skills training, etc.).  

Transcripts
Transcripts from an applicant’s law school are typically required, and some jurisdictions may also require submission of undergraduate and graduate schools attended too. It is important to note that the Law School’s Student Records Office cannot order a transcript from the University Registrar’s Office (UREG) on behalf of a student or graduate. It is your responsibility to follow UREG’s procedures and instructions to ensure the ordering and timely delivery of a transcript. 

Law School Certification Form/Dean’s Certification Form
Many jurisdictions require a Law School (or Dean’s) Certification Form, which certifies your attendance and that you are / were in good academic and/or disciplinary standing. Sometimes, the jurisdiction sends the form directly to the Student Records Office, while others require that the applicant submit it. If the latter applies, 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 jurisdiction.

Certified Handwriting Sample & Notarized Forms
If your jurisdiction 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.

Relatedly, some forms require notarization. The Student Records Office has a notary public who can notarize bar-related documents for you. If you need a notary, bring your unsigned bar forms to SRO so SRO personnel can watch you sign the form and then notarize it.

Character and Fitness
Each jurisdiction wants to know that an applicant possesses good character and fitness to practice law.  This may be accomplished in many ways, usually through a detailed written questionnaire but sometimes through a personal interview. Questions can cover a range of topics, such as  past employment relationships, educational institutions attended, residences, driving record, judicial record, liens, debts, misconduct, discipline, accusations, arrests, or convictions. Most jurisdictions will also send a separate form to the Law School asking us about information in our records and about misconduct and/or discipline that has occurred during your law school tenure

For examples of the kinds of questions you may encounter, the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners posts a sample form online (click here); note that it is only a sample and not an authoritative list of character and fitness questions you must answer for your jurisdiction. It is very important to review the questions on your jurisdiction’s character and fitness form as early as possible. If you have questions or concerns about a question, you should contact the Student Affairs Office to discuss your situation. The NCBE’s bar exam guide has a chart that covers some character and fitness determinations for jurisdictions. 

Fingerprints
University Police provides fingerprinting services for a fee. Call the police department at 434-924-7166 on the day you want to have them done to make sure someone is available to provide the service. You will need to bring your fingerprint card with you. If you are an Albemarle County resident, you can also get fingerprints at the county sheriff’s office for a fee. More

Pre-Application
Some jurisdictions require applicants to submit an evaluative form before applying to sit for their exam. In New York, for example, all first-time foreign LL.M. bar applicants must complete an online Foreign Evaluation Form before applying to sit for the New York bar examination. This form and all of the required documentation is due to the Board at least six months prior to the first day of the application filing period for the desired exam.

MultiState Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

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

You may take the MPRE before you graduate, and in fact some jurisdictions require you to take the MPRE before you take their bar exam. It is very important that you know your jurisdiction’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 sit for the MPRE in the jurisdiction 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. 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.

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 the eligibility and admission requirements, which are available online from the New York State Board of Law Examiners. They include (but are not limited to):

UBE, NYLC, NYLE and MPRE

New York requires applicants to:

Click here for NY’s guidance regarding the timing and sequencing of these requirements. 

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

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; skills requirements; 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). When you apply to take the NY Bar exam, you will submit a Certification Form with your application substantiating your academic eligibility in these coursework categories. Review and complete 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. The Certification Form you submit to the NY Bar Examiners (NYBOLE) is mailed to the Student Records Office for verification. Then SRO reviews all forms and mails all the NY Bar Certification Forms collectively via overnight delivery back to the NYBOLE before the application deadline.

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 (LL.M.s)
LL.M. applicants to the NY Bar must submit their LL.M. Certificate of Attendance Form directly to the Student Records Office by the deadline advertised by SRO. SRO verifies all the LL.M. forms and sends them to the New York Board of Bar Examiners (NYBOLE). SRO mails all of the LL.M. certificates together via overnight delivery a few days before the deadline.  Moreover, as explained above, it is the student’s responsibility to have an official transcript delivered directly to NYBOLE to satisfy its deadline. SRO cannot complete this step for a student. It is important to note that a transcript issued to the student and then mailed to NYBOLE will not suffice. The time between the finalization of an LL.M. student’s transcript (i.e. when all the grades are submitted), degree conferral, and the NYBOLE application deadline is narrow, so it is important to know and follow UREG’s transcript-ordering requirements.

Pro Bono Requirement (J.D.s and LL.M.s)
All candidates who seek admission to the New York state bar 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. 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. The Law School’s Pro Bono Office can help you find qualifying pro bono projects. 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. 

Skills Competency Requirement (J.D. and LL.M)
Applies to applicants who qualify for the bar examination based upon having attended an ABA-approved law school and having satisfied the requirements of section 520.3 or based upon their foreign legal education alone under section 520.6, and who commenced their legal studies after August 1, 2016.  Foreign-educated applicants who are required to complete an LL.M. program at an ABA-approved law school in order to sit for the bar examination under section 520.6, the skills competency requirement will apply to those who commence their LL.M. program after August 1, 2018.   More information on the requirement is available from the New York State Board of Law Examiners.


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 jurisdiction specific questions, look at the jurisdiction’s bar admission website.  The NCBE and the ABA also have summary information available; these sites are listed under the the Quick Resources section of this website.  If you cannot find your answer there, call the jurisdiction’s bar examiners directly.

How do I obtain an official transcript?
An official transcript can only obtained via the University Registrar’s Office (UREG). Click here for details. 

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. FinAid.org, 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 jurisdictions’ 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 jurisdictions will accept a MBE score from a concurrent exam. You will also want to be mindful of travel issues on the middle day.

Most jurisdictions administer the Multistate Bar Exam on one of the days of the examination period. Currently, every U.S. jurisdiction but Louisiana uses the MBE. 

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

Not all jurisdictions 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 jurisdiction’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 jurisdictions, 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 Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and what subjects are covered?
The MBE is a multiple choice exam that covers the following subjects: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. All jurisdictions but Louisiana use the MBE.

What is the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)?
It is a standardized bar exam that is uniformly administered, graded, and scored by user jurisdictions; it results in a portable score that can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions. Candidates must sit for all portions of the UBE in the same administration in the same jurisdiction to earn a portable UBE score. UBE jurisdictions set their own passing scores.  UBE jurisdictions may require applicants to complete a jurisdiction-specific educational component and/or pass a test on jurisdiction-specific law in addition to passing the UBE. 

— Current as of Feb. 16, 2016