At some point during law school, all students develop questions about what happens after graduation, and specifically, curiosity about how one actually obtains a law license. Below, you will find some helpful general information about the process of becoming a lawyer. You should note that three of the six steps below generally occur while you are still enrolled in law school (but this can vary depending on the jurisdiction, so you will need to check your specific jurisdiction information). It is recommended that you review the National Conference of Bar Examiners (‘NCBE’) Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements during your first year of law school initially, and then again at the beginning of each semester to ensure you are aware of any changes or updates in your jurisdiction.
All jurisdictions require a license to practice law, and part of the process of obtaining this license in most jurisdictions requires taking a bar examination and otherwise qualifying for bar admission. Each jurisdiction has its own specific requirements for licensure and various fees associated with the process of becoming licensed, but generally, there are six steps involved in the process of getting your license to practice law (remember, the order of these steps may vary).
- Take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and Achieve a Passing Score
- Complete the Character & Fitness Process
- Complete the Bar Exam Application Process
- Graduate from Law School
- Pass the Bar Exam
- Get Sworn In
1. Take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and Achieve a Passing Score
Almost every jurisdiction also requires that you take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (more information from the NCBE regarding this exam can be found here). The Office of Academic Achievement and Bar Success provides a nice overview here with relevant links to helpful information and timelines. You do not typically need to have completed a professional responsibility course in law school before taking the MPRE.
2. Complete the Character & Fitness Process
Similar to what you submit when you apply to law school, each jurisdiction has as part of its bar admissions process a ‘character and fitness’ requirement to be considered for admission to practice law, although this process is much more in-depth. This is typically done through a separate ‘character and fitness’ application process either with the office of bar admissions in your jurisdiction or through the NCBE, and the timing can vary greatly by jurisdiction. The NCBE maintains the contact information for each jurisdiction along with a link to respective jurisdiction websites here. You should visit your intended jurisdiction’s site for more information, and please keep in mind that preparing your character and fitness application may take longer than you expect, so be prepared to begin the process when the application opens. You also want to ensure that you are aware of any application timelines and fees, as jurisdictions vary (for example, in Georgia candidates have two separate filing periods prior to each bar exam, one for character and fitness and one for the bar application to sit for the exam), but other jurisdictions follow a different timeline. You must maintain awareness of these timelines.
3. Complete the Bar Exam Application Process
In order to take the bar exam, you must generally apply to take the bar exam with the office of bar admissions in the jurisdiction in which you intend to practice. Individuals who wish to become licensed as lawyers in a specific jurisdiction should check that jurisdiction’s website for specific details (are you sensing a theme here? You must investigate the relevant process for your jurisdiction). As referenced previously, the NCBE maintains the contact information for each jurisdiction along with a link to respective jurisdiction websites here. This process varies greatly by jurisdiction, so make sure to stay informed throughout your law school journey.
4. Graduate From Law School
Hopefully, this one needs no explanation.
5. Pass the Bar Exam
Each jurisdiction has different requirements for the bar exam, and although the majority of jurisdictions currently utilize the Uniform Bar Examination (‘UBE’), some states like Georgia do not. For more information on bar exams, score requirements, and transfer options, please visit your specific jurisdiction’s website.
6. Get Sworn In
After you have successfully completed all of the requirements for your jurisdiction, you are then sworn in. Every state does this a little differently, and you will receive full information from your state in due time.
The above is only an overview, and every jurisdiction does things a little differently. Remember, it is your responsibility to investigate the steps in this process, maintain awareness of and meet deadlines, and ensure that you handle your responsibilities around the entire licensing process. Although AABS will provide programming and guidance during your final year of law school and be available to help you find specific resources, the ultimate responsibility rests with you. It is important that you be diligent in your efforts to learn about the particular process for your jurisdiction.