Please note that many jurisdictions’ examination and admission procedures have been impacted by COVID-19, and the information on this page is subject to change. For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information about the bar exam and bar admission procedures, please reference the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) website and the bar admission website for the jurisdiction in which you plan to take the exam.
Bar Review Courses
Bar Review Courses
Commercial Bar Courses
A majority of law graduates take a commercial bar preparation course beginning in late May. If you are working for a law firm, your employer will usually cover the costs, so you should ask your firm how to handle costs and make sure to keep receipts for reimbursement purposes. If you are pursuing a career outside of the private sector with lower pay, you may want to inquire with the bar courses about scholarships or about the possibility of working as a representative for the company to receive a discounted course. Some bar courses allow students who will be working at a law firm to “sponsor” public-interest students for the full cost of their course tuition.
HLS does not endorse any specific bar review company, and encourages you to determine which course is best for you by speaking to recent graduates, bar review company representatives, and employers. The Dean of Students Office requires any bar review company wishing to have a table or present at HLS to complete a questionnaire with information about the number of HLS students enrolled in the past year and general passage data for their bar course students. Since the information is confidential, it is only available to current law students, who can visit the Dean of Students Office (WCC3039) to review the hardcopy reports. Students can ask for these reports at the front desk, sign a confidentiality form, and present their HUID to gain access.
Bar Prep Information Session Videos 2021
Bar Prep Information Session Videos 2021
Overview of Bar Admission
Overview of Bar Admission
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. Students seeking information about eligibility based on foreign legal education may want to consult Chart 4 of .
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 NCBE|
|The Bar Exam||State Boards of Bar Examiners, and OCS & OPIA for employment-related issues|
|Character and Fitness||Dean of Students Office|
|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.
Which State(s) Bar Should I Take?
Which State(s) Bar Should I Take?
BAR ADMISSION IN A single STATE
Generally, your employer will only require you to be admitted to the bar in the jurisdiction in which you are practicing. You should contact your employer to confirm the jurisdiction to which they would like you to be admitted.
If you haven’t secured a job by the time bar registration deadlines roll around, you should sign up for the bar in the jurisdiction in which you are focusing your job search. This is quite common for students seeking public interest positions, for which the job search can extend into the spring. Carefully monitor the bar deadlines of any state you are considering working in and meet with an OPIA or OCS advisor to discuss your unique situation.
Note that for LL.M. students, eligibility to sit for a particular bar exam varies by state.
BAR EXAM RECIPROCITY AND SCORE Transfer
For a variety of reasons, some students choose to apply for bar admission to two different states immediately after graduation. Others may be curious about being admitted to a second state later on in their career. Processes such as “bar reciprocity,” “waiving in,” or “admission on motion” refer to a state bar admitting an attorney under a more streamlined procedure based on their membership in another state’s bar. Some states, including California and Florida, do not allow such a procedure, and require practicing attorneys to sit for the bar exam in their state instead.
Some states allow you to transfer your bar exam score from one state to another, with some additional state-specific requirements.
Bar exam score transfer is commonly used by students and junior attorneys who have not practiced law for the number of years that a particular state requires for waiving in.
Some state bar examiners will accept Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) scores from a concurrent exam. Practically speaking, this means that applicants will sit for three (very likely consecutive) days of exams: one day for the MBE, and one day for each of the two states. You must, however, check your state’s requirements and the schedule for the examinations to see if this is allowed or even feasible.
Additionally, a number of states, including Colorado, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and will accept transferred scores from the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), a uniform series of tests (including the MBE) administered over two consecutive days simultaneously in the jurisdictions currently administering the UBE. Learn about your state’s UBE status with the NCBE’s interactive map, and double-check that state’s bar admission site as well. Practically speaking, this means you would take the two-day UBE in a particular UBE state, which then results in a portable score that can be used to apply for admission to other UBE jurisdictions. You will likely have additional state-specific requirements in order to be admitted to a UBE state. For example, in New York, you are required to take an online course on New York State-specific law known as the New York Law Course (NYLC), as well as an online examination, the New York Law Exam (NYLE), in addition to the UBE.
For states that permit bar reciprocity or admission on motion, requirements for waiving into a particular jurisdiction vary widely but often include a requirement that an attorney practice for a certain number of years.
Note that military spouse attorneys may be able to apply for a temporary permit to practice while in a state on military orders without needing to take an additional bar exam. See here for more information.
Be aware that reciprocity and score transfer processes may require a lengthy waiting period while your application is reviewed. Make sure to check with your employer about their expectations surrounding jurisdiction and timeline.
Character and Fitness
Character and Fitness
Contact: Dean of Students Office
In addition to examinations, each applicant is required to produce evidence that they are a person of honest demeanor and good moral character, possessing the requisite fitness to perform the obligations and responsibilities of a practicing attorney at law.
While character and fitness disclosures vary by state, you should be prepared to list specifics of every place you have lived since you turned 18, every job you have held (with contacts to confirm employment), every speeding ticket, any disciplinary action in school, and any arrest or criminal charge as well as full details of the incident. Please start assembling the documents months in advance of your application due date because the process can be time-consuming. If you are concerned about how to disclose a certain piece of information, you can contact the Dean of Students Office or Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, a lawyer assistance program funded by bar dues.
Where a character & fitness application requires a certification from the Dean of the Law School, this form should be forwarded to the Registrar’s Office.
Many states require a set of fingerprints for the character & fitness review process. The Harvard University Police Department will provide fingerprinting services.
WHAT IS THE MPRE?
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is required for admission to the bars of all U.S. jurisdictions except Wisconsin and Puerto Rico. The MPRE is based on the law governing the conduct of lawyers. It consists of 60 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately two hours to complete. The examination is administered three times per year (March, August, and November). J.D. students may sit for the MPRE before taking a Legal Profession course at HLS.
Please note that some jurisdictions, such as Massachusetts, require a passing score on file before you are allowed to apply for the bar exam. Other jurisdictions require a passing score before you are allowed to sit for the bar exam. Check applicable requirements with your state bar association, particularly if you are considering waiting until March to take the MPRE.
Unlike the bar exam, students do not have to take the MPRE in the jurisdiction where they plan to practice.
Registering and Preparing for the MPRE
- The MPRE early registration deadline is often nearly 2 months before the actual exam. Register early to get your preferred test location and to avoid paying a late fee.
- Most students take a prep course offered by a bar review company or rely on the practice materials available on the MPRE website.
The Bar Application
The Bar Application
Most forms requiring a signature by a school official should be sent to the Registrar’s Office, even Dean’s Certifications and forms related to character and fitness. See State-Specific FAQs below regarding New York bar forms.
APPLYING FOR DISABILITY-RELATED ACCOMMODATIONS ON THE BAR EXAM AND MPRE
Students who plan to request testing accommodations on the bar exam should first go to the bar admission website of the state where they are taking the exam and familiarize themselves with the application requirements and deadlines. Please keep in mind that HLS’s process of providing accommodations is not necessarily reflective of the process for receiving testing accommodations on the bar exam.
Please contact Accessibility Services at 617-495-1880 or email@example.com for additional assistance and information about requesting accommodations on the bar exam.
Information about requesting accommodations on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) can be found on the NCBE website.
The Bar Exam
The Bar Exam
The bar exam is offered twice per year – once in February and once in July – in most jurisdictions. It is generally a two-day examination, although it lasts three days in some jurisdictions.
Though the format varies by jurisdiction, components may include:
- MBE: The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a six-hour, two-hundred question multiple-choice examination covering civil procedure, contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, evidence, and real property.
- MPT: The Multistate Performance Test (MPT), two 90-minute skills questions covering factual analysis, legal analysis and reasoning, problem solving, identification and resolution of ethical dilemmas, written communication, and organization and management of a legal task.
- MEE: The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), a three-hour, six-question essay examination covering the following areas of law: business associations, civil procedure, conflict of laws, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, family law, real property, secured transactions, torts, and trusts and estates.
- State-specific multiple choice and essays: Check with your local state bar.
- UBE: The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is a two-day exam composed of the MBE, MPT and MEE.
After the Bar
After the Bar
Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
Most state bars require licensed attorneys to complete yearly CLE credits in order to remain in good standing. CLE requirements vary greatly by state, so it is important to consult your state bar association to ensure that you successfully complete the mandatory coursework.
For example, if you are licensed in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court requires that all attorneys licensed after September 1, 2013 complete a one-day Professionalism Course within 18 months of admission. More information is available on the SJC’s website.
Changing Your Resume, LinkedIn, and Other Signatures or Accounts
Once you have graduated from law school and submitted your application to the bar, the proper resume designation for your bar status is “Application Pending.” Once you have passed the exam and the character & fitness review or interview, your status may be designated “Admission Pending.” Bar examiners previously required candidates to change the language on their resumes and LinkedIn accounts before approving their application and admission to the Bar. Candor with employers, potential employers, and clients about your bar admission status is paramount.
General Bar Form or Application FAQs
General Bar Form or Application FAQs
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, Lauren Chapman 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, we generally complete and send them in order of deadline.
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. Recent graduates of Harvard Law School are eligible to receive up to ten free transcripts per month when they order online, so having a transcript sent will not cost you anything. Please visit the Registrar’s Office Transcript Request Page 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.
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 may 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 Registrar’s Office, Dean of Students Office, and the Office of Career Services. You may also consider the below notary services located close to the HLS campus. Some of these services are free; most require appointments. Please read what is required of you before going to any location.
State Specific FAQs
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.