6. The Bar Exam: Why it Can't Be Underestimated


    Each state has a process for deciding who will be a lawyer in that jurisdiction.  That process turns out to be the Bar Exam and a background investigation.  In most jurisdictions, the Bar Exam involves some combination of the following: the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), state essays, Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).  The Bar/Bri web site and the Bar/Bri Digest will provide you with the details of what those Bar Exam components consist of, but that won't concern you until your third year.
    As you go through law school the Bar Exam is infrequently discussed.  Law students barely have an awareness of what the Bar Exam is until late in their 3rd year.  Most students think the Bar is just a small formality on the way to legal practice.
    The Bar Exam is a very big deal!  The preparation for testing lasts at least seven weeks and is exhausting.  The exam itself is grueling, lasting two to three days depending on the state in which you test.  You will leave the Bar Exam feeling as though you've just been beat up.  The exam and preparation courses are very expensive (refer back to Appendix A).
    The Bar Exam is given twice a year in most states (in February and July).  Most states have application filing deadlines about five months prior to the test.  So if you're graduating early in December, most of you should be prepared to have your application into the state of your choice by early October in order to sit for the winter exam.  Those of you graduating in May will need to have your applications into your chosen state by late February.  Again, write to the examinations committee for the state, or go to their web site for specific dates that apply to your state.
    Also, most students underestimate how time consuming the application itself is.  With very few exceptions (one being Washington state), filling out the application to sit for the Bar Exam will take you a good deal of time.  For those of you who have held multiple jobs and/or relocated several times in your life you will need to get an early start in order to provide enough time to work out the logistics of your work histories.  You may need to send away for information and/or make several phone calls.
    To give you an example, many states are going to want your complete work history back to when you were 18 years old.  If you will be 25 in your 3rd year of law school such a task will not prove very difficult.  If you will be 35 years old in your 3rd of law school, the task may prove formidable.  Some of your former employers may be out of business, you may not be able to recall addresses, names of supervisors, etc.
        The message is: get started early.