There are numerous steps to becoming an attorney in the United States. For most aspiring lawyers, law school will be the first step, followed by the bar exam in the state in which they choose to practice.
But there is another test that most lawyers need to take before they are admitted into the bar: the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. This test is required in all but four jurisdictions and in some cases, much be passed even before taking the bar exam.
Students interested in a law career will need to obtain a required amount of education before taking the MPRE and the bar exam. Generally, that means a law degree. There are two types of law degree, a J.D. and an L.L.B., and these degrees can be obtained from either a school that has been approved by the American Bar Association or one that has not. Some states require a degree from a school on the approved list before taking the MPRE, but others do not, so it is important to know what the local requirements are before embarking on a law education. Foreign students will also need to check if the state allows degrees from law schools outside the U.S.
Maryland, Puerto Rico, Washington and Wisconsin do not use the MPRE. Instead questions about ethics and professional responsibility are incorporated into the regular bar exam. In Connecticut and New Jersey the MPRE requirement is waived for students who have a C grade or better in their required ethics class. Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Nebraska all require that any student interested in taking the bar exam must have already passed the MPRE, in some cases several months before.
The MPRE exam is a test of an aspiring lawyer’s knowledge about the rules of conduct governing the law profession. The test asks questions about judicial ethics; discipline of lawyers; rules and standards of conduct; and other issues related to the way lawyers are expected to conduct themselves. These topics will likely be covered in ethics courses that are usually required by law schools to obtain a degree.
The MPRE is a multiple-choice test with 60 questions. Fifty of these questions are scored; ten are pretest questions that are not. But test takers are not informed which questions count so it is important to answer every one. After that part of the test the test takers will be asked ten more questions about the test taking experience and conditions.
The questions in the main body of the test will present the test taker with a situation and then ask a question about it. The situation will describe a scenario where an issue about the professional conduct of an attorney needs to be decided. Most of the questions will draw upon professional codes of conduct issued by the American Bar Association.
The questions can be about the responsibility of a lawyer in a given situation, or about conflicts of interest, or issues of confidentiality – all things that are important for anyone considering a law career to know and understand.
To pass this exam any test taker will need to get a passing score, which ranges from 75 to 86 in different states. The test itself is scored between 50 and 100.
Becoming an Attorney
There are a number of important steps to become an attorney in the United States, though requirements vary in different states. However, most states demand that an applicant to the bar have an appropriate legal education and pass one or more tests, the most important of which is the bar exam.
Most states in the United States use a test called the Multistate Bar exam, which, as its name implies, is a test that admits eligible individuals to the bar in many states. The test is administered only twice a year, in February and July. Currently this version of the bar exam is not offered in Louisiana, Washington and Puerto Rico. The exam was created and is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. In some states students are permitted to take the bar exam before graduating law school but in most states they must wait until they have their degree. Other eligibility requirements – such as a residency requirement – may also apply.
In addition to the bar exam, some states also require applicants to the bar take other tests, such as an ethics and professional responsibility exam, called the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. In addition to passing this type of ethics test, many states also have some codes of conduct and character standards, such as not allowing people convicted of a felony to be admitted.
The Multistate Bar exam is a pencil and paper test that has both a multiple-choice section and a written part. The entire test has 200 questions, and is given in two 100 question sessions, each three hours long. In between each session the test takers are given a break.
The major topics covered in the Multistate Bar exam include: Constitutional Law; Contracts; Criminal Law and Procedure; Evidence; Real Property; and Torts.
The score that will allow an applicant to the bar to be admitted is different in different states. The test is graded out of 200, with the score of each question rated on a scale depending on how difficult each is. In most states a passing grade will fall between 128 and 140 out of 200.
How many times someone can take the bar will also vary depending in the locality. Some states allow applicants to take the test an unlimited number of times. Others limit the number to three, four, five or six times.
While passing the bar exam is a major step to passing the bar, even attorneys who do obtain bar membership are not automatically permitted to practice every branch of the law. Local restrictions apply. Most states also require continuing education each year to keep up membership in the bar.
For many aspiring lawyers, preparing for the bar will be a large undertaking, with study aids, practice tests, and special coaching. The National Conference of Bar Examiners allows applicants to the bar to take practice test online to get a feel for the exam and its questions. Each practice exam has 100 questions that are taken from previous Multistate Bar Examinations.
Passing the Multistate Bar Exam
For most aspiring attorneys, taking the bar examination is a culmination of many years of hard work, including college and then law school.
Currently, most states, except for Louisiana, Washington, and Puerto Rico, use the Multistate Bar exam as part of their criteria for judging who will be admitted to the bar and become a licensed attorney in that state. In some cases the test is part of a larger exam, called the Uniform Bar Exam.
To be eligible to take the Multistate bar exam, most states have various requirements that must be met. Most states are educational requirements, including that the candidate has completed law school but also sometimes extending to the undergraduate degree obtained in college. There are also ethics and code of conduct requirements, including, in many states, a test called the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam.
Other states may require residency, or restrict bar membership from people who have felony convictions. Anyone attempting to become a lawyer needs to ascertain the specific requirements of the state in which they intend to practice.
If a student has a degree from a law school outside the United States there may be some restrictions on whether or not they can take the bar exam depending on where they went to school and the type of degree obtained.
The Multistate Bar exam is only given twice each year, in February and again in July. The test is taken with pencil and paper and includes both multiple-choice and written questions.
Each test is split into two sections. The first half, composed of 100 questions, is given over a period of three hours. Then the test takers are given a break. Afterwards they return for another three-hour period to take the second 100 questions.
The topics covered by the Multistate Bar exam include questions pertaining to: Constitutional Law; Contracts; Criminal Law and Procedure; Evidence; Real Property; and Torts.
The examination is scored out of 200, with the questions weighted depending on difficulty. Passing scores are different in each state but most locations have a minimum score of between 128 and 140.
If a test taker does not get a passing score he or she can usually take the test again, though there may be some limits on how many times, total, any one person can take the test. In most states the limits range from three times to six times but there are some states that allow test takers to retake the exam as many times as they desire.
Once an aspiring lawyer has passed the bar exam he or she will need to take regular continuing education classes to keep up the license to practice law.
Getting ready for the bar is a large undertaking. In addition to all the studying in law school most people also do extensive preparation for the bar exam as well. There are study aids and practice tests available to help, including a series of 100-question practice exams offered online by the National Conference of Bar Examiners for a fee.
How to pass the multistate professional responsibility exam
Anyone interested in passing the bar in most jurisdictions in the U.S. will need to take, and pass, the MPRE, formally called the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. In some cases passing this test is required before an applicant is eligible to even take the bar exam.
The firs step in passing the MPRE exam is getting the appropriate education. How much education you need, and at what type of institution, will range depending on the state in which you are taking the bar. Twenty. U.S. states and territories require that any bar exam taker must have either a J.D. or a L.L.B. exam from an approved law school. However, the other states and territories have varying requirements. Some may accept a degree from a school not approved by the American Bar Association, depending on where the school is located and what other work the applicant has done in the field of law. Other states permit students who have not yet completed law school to take the MPRE. Whether or not a degree from a law school in another country will allow a student to take the bar will also vary from place to place.
A student taking the bar in Connecticut or New Jersey will not need to take the MPRE if he or she got at least a C grade in the professional ethics class taken at law school.
First, to pass the MPRE exam, the applicant needs to register and pay a fee, as well as obtain the Admissions Ticket. Registration can be completed either on line or through the mail. The applicant will need to provide a photo for the Admissions Ticket, which he or she will need to bring to the test taking center.
The test includes 60 questions, plus ten questions about the test taking experience, and students get 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete it. It is a standardized multiple-choice test taken on paper with a pencil. Of the 60 questions in the main body of the test, 50 are scored and ten are pretest questions that are not scored, but the test taker will not know what questions are in each category. Each question usually includes a factual situation, perhaps quoting a legal statute, and then a question about that situation.
The Professional Responsibility exam is not testing general knowledge about the law. Instead it is focused on examining the applicant’s understanding of the rules concerning the professional behavior of lawyers, including judicial ethics, discipline, and other issues. The questions describe a situation and then a question that the test taker is supposed to answer using his or her knowledge of these principals. Each question presents a scenario, and then asks a question about it that the test take is supposed to answer based on his or her knowledge of the code of conduct and other principals governing attorneys.
Many test takers will find that the kind of information covered on the MPRE is similar to the subject matter covered in the classes on ethics or professional responsibility they took in law school. Still, students may want to study independently for this test, and to take sample tests, in order to guarantee a passing score. The MPRE test is given a scaled score between 50 and 100. What constitutes a passing grade depends on the state. In some places, a 75 score will be enough to pass, while in other jurisdictions scores up to 86 are required.