What can disqualify a person from sitting for a bar exam?
If there are serious red flags raised during the application process or from evaluations from the student's law school, there could be problems. Serious criminal law issues could present a problem, as could allegations of sexual harassment or other bad behavior. If the bar examiners in a state believe that a lawyer has been untruthful or lacked candor in the application process, then there could be problems for that candidate. If a person had an issue with plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty, that could be cause for concern. It is hard to generalize because these issues vary from state to state.
How many bar exams are there?
There are two bar exams every year. The first is given in February and the second is given in July.
What is tested on the bar exam?
Bar exams are given in every state and consist of two parts. The first part is the called the Multistate, which is given nationwide to applicants in every state except for Washington and Louisiana. The Multistate part of the bar exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions covering the subjects of contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, property, torts, and evidence. While it may sound easy, it is very difficult. Many of the questions appear to have two correct answers and the applicant must select the better of the two answers.
The second part of the exam is an essay exam, which requires applicants to answer essay questions covering a much broader array of legal subjects. For instance, a state essay exam requires applicants often to be familiar with wills and estates, domestic relations, state constitutional law, secured transactions, and other areas simply not tested on the multistate exam.
Do all states require individuals to take a bar exam to practice law?
All states require applicants to take the bar exam except for the state of Wisconsin, which provides that students who graduate from law school in Wisconsin are automatically licensed to practice law in the state. This benefit for Wisconsin school grad is called the state diploma privilege. It means that law graduates from Wisconsin Law School and Marquette University do not have to take the Wisconsin Bar Exam.
However, there is a currently a federal lawsuit that is challenging the constitutionality of this diploma privilege. It was filed by a lawyer who took the Wisconsin Bar Exam but was not entitled to the diploma privilege because he graduated from a law school in Oklahoma.
If a lawyer passes a state bar exam can he or she then practice in any state?
No, becoming licensed in one state does not entitle a lawyer to practice in another state. Many states do have what is known as reciprocity, which means that after a lawyer has practiced for a period of time (usually five years), he or she can apply to practice in another state without taking another bar exam. The lawyer must receive approval from the new state's highest court to receive admission.
A key exception in most states is that lawyers can apply for what is known as pro hac vice status, which is Latin for "this one occasion or event." This means that a lawyer is applying to practice in a different state for one case.
What is continuing legal education?
Continuing legal education (CLE) is a requirement imposed on lawyers in nearly every state that requires them to take a certain number of hours in legal study to ensure continuing competence and professionalism. Various bar associations and other groups offer CLE courses, which usually consist of presentations by experts, panels debating current legal topics, and various other teaching methods. Many states now allow attorneys to take online CLE courses. Attorneys can also obtain CLE credit for publishing legal articles and teaching law courses to undergraduates, paralegals, or law students.