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Bar Admission & Exam

In order to join the legal profession and work as a lawyer in the United States, individuals must be licensed by the state or territory in which they plan to practice. The federal government does not license lawyers. Most states require prospective attorneys to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass a state-administered bar exam, pass an ethics exam, and satisfy character and fitness standards.

In some cases, it is possible to seek admission to two different states during the same testing period. This depends on whether the two states offer the state-specific portions of their bar exams on different days of the week. Attorneys admitted to one or more states may seek admission to another state either by motion or by taking the new state’s bar exam. This varies by state.

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. (ABA Standard 504(a) Qualifications for Admission to the Bar).

Bar Exam Information

Every state offers its bar exam during the last week of July and the last week of February. Most exams consist of a Multistate Bar Exam and one or two days of state specific testing. The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is a six-hour, 200-question, multiple-choice exam covering six subjects (Torts, Property, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Evidence, and Criminal Law). The state specific portion of the exam typically consists of essay questions that test the applicants’ knowledge of various subject areas.