Admission to the bar is conducted through the Board of Bar Examiners of the state in which you are applying. While the admission process may vary significantly from state to state, the process usually involves:
- Applying to sit for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) and taking the MPRE;
- Applying to sit for the bar exam and taking the bar exam; and
- Completing your state’s character and fitness process and any additional admission prerequisites.
LL.M. students should make sure that they are eligible to take that state’s bar exam and file the requisite evaluation request (such as the Online Foreign Evaluation required by the New York State Board of Law Examiners) and designated official documents sufficiently in advance of the applicable bar exam date.
Because procedures vary by state, you will not receive emails from HLS about upcoming deadlines, but there are a number of resources available to help you navigate the process. The following chart will give you a quick overview of relevant resources and offices at HLS.
|Overview of Bar Admission||State Boards of Bar Examiners and the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE)|
|The Bar Exam||State Boards of Bar Examiners, and OCS & OPIA for employment-related issues|
|Character and Fitness||Dean of Students Office|
|The MPRE||National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE)|
|Bar Application Forms||Office of the Registrar|
Begin your search by visiting the NCBE site, which contains information about deadlines and requirements for different jurisdictions. It is important that you routinely check your state’s bar admission page, as deadlines and requirements may change throughout the year and state committees are not flexible about waiving requirements.
Each year the Dean of Students Office co-sponsors a number of information sessions on the bar exam that cover both the application process and character & fitness processes. Speakers generally include representatives from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, and some of the major bar preparation companies.
DOS Bar Advising Video Series
The Dean of Students Office has created a video series discussing the bar exam, an overview of the application process, the MPRE, and many other bar-related topics. New videos will be added as they are completed.
General Bar Form or Application FAQs
I have a class on the same day as the MPRE. Can I request a class recording?
Yes. Please complete the Class Recording Request form on the ITS Services Hub.
I have a lot of questions about my Bar forms; whom can I talk to in the Registrar’s Office about these questions?
While specific questions should often be directed to the state in question’s Board of Bar Examiners, Briana Cobbs can help you with Bar Form related questions. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are there any fees associated with completing my Bar forms?
No, the Registrar’s Office is happy to provide these services free of charge.
When will my Bar forms be sent out?
The answer to this question varies depending on the Bar Exam you’re taking. Because of the high volume of Bar Forms we receive, the Registrar’s Office generally completes and send thems in order of the jurisdictions’ deadlines.
How do I know what the deadline is for the forms I’ve submitted to the Registrar’s Office for completion?
Check with your state bar association.
How will I know when my Bar forms are sent? Will I get an email?
Yes, you will receive an email from the Registrar’s Office once your completed Bar Form is sent out.
If an official transcript is required for me to take the Bar, will one be sent automatically?
No. If you need to have a transcript sent to any Board of Bar Examiners, you must request one online or at the Registrar’s Office. Please visit the Registrar’s Transcript Requests webpage to order transcripts.
Can I find my required Bar forms in the Registrar’s Office?
No. You are responsible for delivering any forms that you need to have filled out to the Registrar’s Office.
The deadline to have my forms in to the Bar is a long way off, but I have the forms now. Is it too soon to bring them to the Registrar’s Office?
No, it’s never too soon to drop off your forms. The Registrar’s Office will hold them until after you’ve graduated, after which time they will be completed in the order of their Bar’s deadline.
If I’m out of town and need to send my Bar forms to you, can I do so by email or fax, or do I have to send it by mail?
It depends on the state in question, but unless the form requires YOUR original signature, you should be able to email or fax your forms to the Registrar’s Office, at email@example.com or 617-496-8907.
My required Bar form says that it is a Dean’s Certification – should I direct this form to the Dean’s Office?
No, the Registrar’s Office handles all bar forms; in cases where it is necessary, the Dean’s signature will be affixed to your required document instead of that of the Registrar.
The Board of Bar Examiners for my state doesn’t require a particular form, they just need a letter stating that I’ve graduated. How can I request such a letter?
Certificates of Graduation can be requested using the Registrar’s Office “Document Request Form”, which is available in the Registrar’s Office or online here.
Please fill out, sign, and return this form to the Registrar’s Office by hand or via mail, email, or fax. Please note that these forms require an actual signature; a typed signature will not be sufficient.
If the Board of Bar Examiners requires an original signature on your Certificate of Graduation, please make a note somewhere on the form specifying “original signature”.
The Board of Bar Examiners for my state doesn’t require a particular form, they just need an official final transcript showing that I’ve graduated. How can I request a transcript?
There are two ways a transcript can be ordered: on paper or online. You can find the Transcript Request Form online or in the Registrar’s Office. You may submit it by mail or in person. Or, you may use the online ordering system through the National Student Clearinghouse. Both options can be found on the Registrar’s Office’s Transcript Request Page. Current students and recent graduates are eligible to receive free transcripts when they are ordered online; transcripts ordered in-office or by mail are $3 per copy.
Some of my bar forms need to be notarized. Do you have a Notary Public in your office who can help me?
Notaries public are available in the HLS Registrar’s Office and the Office of Career Services, as well as at the Smith Campus Center. Many banks, such as Bank of America and Santander, offer notary services as well. Some of these services are free; most require appointments. Please read what is required of you before going to any location.
State Specific FAQs
I’m a J.D. student applying to the NY Bar. What forms do I need to submit to the Registrar’s Office?
You will have to submit a Specimen of Applicant’s Handwriting. A Certificate of Attendance Form is also required, but the New York Bar will provide the Registrar’s Office with that document directly.
You do not need to submit your Form Affidavit as to Applicant’s Compliance with the Pro Bono Requirements, including Certification by Supervisor or the Form Affidavit as to Applicant’s Law-Related Employment and/or Solo Practice to any HLS office. You keep original copies of these Affidavits in your possession and submit the original with your Application for Admission to Practice as an Attorney and Counselor-at-law in the State of New York after successful bar passage.
New York seems to have a lot of forms and requirements. Also, it doesn’t seem like I even have to submit my application for admission until after I take the bar exam. How can I learn more about the process and timeline for applying for admission in New York?
The New York State Board of Law Examiners (NYBOLE) website has the most comprehensive and current information about requirements for admission. Review the instructions, forms, and details on the Admission Information page.
Additionally, Appellate Divisions’ websites can provide more information about the admission process. For example, the Third Department, which admits candidates seeking to practice in New York who neither reside nor work in the state, has published its own “How to Apply for Admission on Examination” document.
Review dates and deadlines for the bar exam and the New York Law Exam here. Do not miss the deadline to register to take the bar exam in New York. No exceptions are granted for late registration.
I’m an LL.M student applying to sit for the NY State Bar Exam. What forms do I need to submit through the Registrar’s Office?
There are three items you will need to submit through our office: a Specimen of Applicant’s Handwriting, an LLM Certificate of Attendance form, and an official transcript. If you are not using your Harvard LLM degree to qualify for the bar you only need to submit the Specimen of Applicant’s Handwriting. Please note that these are separate from the Online Foreign Evaluation and all required documentation, all of which must have been filed by the requisite deadlines set by the New York Board of Law Examiners (NYBOLE).
If I am out of state when I complete my New York Bar Specimen of Applicant’s Handwriting Form, can the staff at the Registrar’s Office verify my handwriting without viewing the completion of the form?
No. You will need to bring a blank copy of the Specimen of Applicant’s Handwriting Form to a Notary Public, and will then need to fill out and sign your form in front of them, and have the Notary affix their seal and signature on the document. You will also need to request a letter from our office, certifying that you were out of state at the time of your Specimen of Applicant’s Handwriting Form. The form to request such a letter is available on our Policies and Forms page. The letter we provide, along with your completed, notarized handwriting form, can then be sent by you to the New York Board of Law Examiners.
I’ve submitted all the necessary forms and it’s getting close to the due date, and I’m concerned my New York Bar documents haven’t been sent yet; should I call or email to check on their status?
Because such a high volume of HLS graduates apply to take the New York Bar Exam, the Registrar’s Office often holds the forms until a day or two before the deadline, June 15, at which time they will have them sent to the New York Bar via FedEx Standard Overnight, at no cost to students. This guarantees that all of the forms make it in time for the deadline, and also ensures that they all arrive safely. As mentioned above, an email will be sent to alert you once your forms have been sent, and will list the FedEx tracking number so you can track that package online.
What is the New York bar pro bono requirement and what forms do I need to submit?
Please see the New York State Unified Court System webpage on Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirements for official information.
All candidates seeking admission to the New York Bar – after having taken and passed the NY Bar Exam – after January 1, 2015 will need to file documentation showing that they have completed 50 hours of law-related pro bono service.
Pro bono activity that satisfies the New York Bar admission requirement may not satisfy the HLS Pro Bono Graduation Requirement and vice versa. Because Harvard Law is not the administrator of this requirement, we cannot officially verify or confirm that a particular activity will count.
As proof of completion, applicants will need to file the Form Affidavit as to Applicant’s Compliance with the Pro Bono Requirements, including Certification by Supervisor (“Affidavit of Compliance”) with their application for each pro bono activity used to satisfy the New York Bar 50-hour requirement. Each Affidavit of Compliance must be signed by the student before a notary and certified and signed by the attorney who supervised the pro bono work. It is strongly recommended that Affidavits of Compliance be completed immediately after the qualifying pro bono work is done, as tracking down supervisors or required information months or years after the pro bono work has been completed will be very difficult.
Please note that neither the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs nor the Office of the Registrar may sign Affidavits of Compliance – only the attorney or faculty member who supervised the pro bono work may certify the Affidavit of Compliance. Students should keep the original signed Affidavit of Compliance and submit it with their Character and Fitness Application after successful bar passage. Students should not submit this Affidavit of Compliance to any HLS office.
What forms do I need to provide to the Registrar’s Office to fulfill the requirements for sitting for the California Bar Exam?
The California Bar will send us forms to certify your graduation and character and fitness directly. However, they also require that an official transcript be sent to them; this will need to be requested by you, in our office or using our online ordering system.
The California Bar says that they will request a transcript on my behalf. Is this correct, and will a transcript be sent?
No. In order to have a transcript sent to the California Bar, you will need to request one personally. Current students and recent graduates are eligible to receive free transcripts when they are ordered online, so you can request that a transcript be sent on to the California Bar at no cost to yourself by ordering a transcript here.
How do I process the Form Affidavit as to Applicant’s Compliance with the Skills Competency and Professional Values Requirement?
You can complete your Skills Competency and Professional Values Affidavit by submitting the form to the Registrar’s Office in person or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Submit the affidavit along with the Document Request Form, available on the Registrar’s website under Policies and Forms, so you can provide the preferred mailing address for the completed form.
If you submit the affidavit and document request form by July 1st, the Registrar’s Office can process and mail it back to you by July 15th. Once you receive the signed affidavit from the Registrar’s Office, you can then complete the last page with a notary public.