UPDATE MAY 4, 2021
Update on the 50-Hour Pro Bono Requirement for NY Admission (May 2021): Winter 2021 and Spring 2021 graduates seeking admission in NY State are required to complete the Mandatory 50 Pro Bono Hour Form as provided in the multi-department admission packet. This requirement has not been waived for those who graduated after Spring 2020.
Update on Character & Fitness Application Format for NY Admission (May 2021): All NY Departments will accept electronic versions of original hard-copy documents for character and fitness, though the applicant must retain the original physical documents and may be asked to produce them at a later date. Each Department has local rules/preferences for requirements such as whether a “wet” or e-signature is valid for components of the multi-department admission packet; please consult your assigned department’s website and contact the Department directly should you have additional questions.
UPDATE MARCH 30, 2021
UPDATE MARCH 16, 2021
St. John’s Law is an AccessLex partner school. In addition to AccessLex MAX and other free resources, St. John’s Law students have access to the AccessLex Bar Success Webinar Series. This webinar series is designed to help support students’ informational needs as they prepare to take the bar exam after graduating in Spring 2021.
Registration is free for all webinars: (i) the MPRE, (ii) the Road to Licensure, (iii) 5 Tips for Bar Exam Success, and (iv) What You Need to Know About the UBE. Registration. For additional information, see the digital flyer here.
UPDATE MARCH 5, 2021
JULY 2021 BAR EXAMINATION
On February 2, 2021, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced that it will make a full set of Uniform Bar Exam materials available for a remote examination in July 2021. Although vaccinations are now available and the number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing, the COVID-19 pandemic has not abated sufficiently to permit the Board of Law Examiners to safely conduct in-person testing of large numbers of bar applicants in New York. Therefore, in order to provide sufficient notice to prospective bar exam applicants, the July 2021 New York Bar Examination will be administered remotely.
Application to the July 27-28, 2021 bar examination will be open to all eligible applicants. However, the Board will cap the number of applications at 10,000. The application filing period for the July 27-28, 2021 New York bar examination is April 1 – 30, 2021. The application will close on April 30, 2021 or when the 10,000 cap is reached. Applicants shall apply through their BOLE Account in the Applicant Services Portal.
Since the results from the February 2021 bar examination are not anticipated to be released until late April, applicants who are unsuccessful on the February 2021 New York bar examination will be provided an opportunity to apply for the July 2021 bar examination after the release of the February 2021 New York bar exam results.
Spring 2020 Graduates, please review the Advisory and Reminders on Applying to the New York State Bar.
New instructions available on How to Amend Your Original Law School Application & Request Your Original Application for Review are now available.
Bar Admissions Basic Overview
In order to obtain a license to practice law, almost all law school graduates must apply for bar admission through a state board of bar examiners. Most often this board is an agency of the highest state court in the jurisdiction, but occasionally the board is connected more closely to the state’s bar association. The criteria for eligibility to take the bar examination or to otherwise qualify for bar admission are set by each state, not by the ABA or the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
Licensing involves a demonstration of worthiness in two distinct areas. The first is competence. For initial licensure, competence is ordinarily established by a showing that the applicant holds an acceptable educational credential (with some exceptions, a J.D. degree) from a law school that meets educational standards, and by achieving a passing score on the bar examination.
In addition, each state may have additional requirements for admission to the Bar. For example, New York requires that applicants must:
- Take and complete an online course in New York-specific law, known as the New York Law Course (NYLC), and pass an online examination, known as the New York Law Exam (NYLE).
- Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).
- Comply with the Skills Competency Requirement.
- Comply with the 50-hour Pro Bono Requirement.
The second area of inquiry by bar examiners involves the character and fitness of applicants for a law license. In this regard, bar examiners seek background information concerning each applicant that is relevant to the appropriateness of granting a professional credential. Because law is a public profession, and because the degree of harm a lawyer, once licensed, can inflict is substantial, decisions about who should be admitted to practice law are made carefully by bar examining boards.
Bar Exam – General Information
Upon recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), the New York Court of Appeals adopted the UBE effective with the July 2016 administration of the New York State bar examination.
The UBE is a high quality, uniform battery of tests that is administered contemporaneously in every other jurisdiction that has adopted the UBE. It consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE).
The UBE tests knowledge of general principles of law, legal analysis and reasoning, and communication skills – essentially, it tests the fundamental knowledge and lawyering skills that are needed to begin the practice of law. The UBE is uniformly administered, graded and scored, and it results in a score that can then be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions.
The UBE is administered on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July (view dates here). During the morning session on Tuesday (9:30 am to 12:30 pm), applicants are given three hours to complete two MPT items. During the afternoon session on Tuesday (2:00 pm to 5:00 pm), applicants are given three hours to answer six MEE questions. On Wednesday, applicants will take the MBE, which is a six-hour, 200 question multiple-choice exam divided into two three-hour sessions (9:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm).
An applicant must achieve a score of 266 or higher (on a 400 point scale) on the UBE, whether taken in New York or another jurisdiction, in order to qualify for admission in New York.
Applying to Take the Bar Exam
In order to apply for the UBE, you must provide your National Conference of Board Examiners (NCBE) number. For information on obtaining an NCBE number, select the tab “NCBE Account” at the NCBE website.
Registration for the UBE is open from November 1 – 30 for the February exam and April 1 – 30 for the July exam. Late applications will not be accepted, so be sure to register early.
A few weeks after registration closes, you will receive emails with two attachments: a Certificate of Attendance form and a Handwriting Sample form. They are bar-coded specifically for each candidate.
- Certificate of Attendance
Keep this form for your records. We will also receive a copy of this form, so you do not need to submit this to St. John’s.
- Handwriting Sample
Bring a photo ID and the bar-coded handwriting form that your received via email to the Registrar’s Office. You must fill out the form in the presence of a member of the Registrar’s Office. Do not complete any part of the form prior to bringing it to the office.
If you require accommodations for the UBE, you must apply before registration closes (November 30 for the February exam or April 30 for the July exam). We strongly recommend that you apply early in case they require additional information or documentation. Please see more information here.
New York State Requirements
In New York, applicants to the Bar must complete the following in addition to passing the Bar Exam. Please read the full details on the New York State Board of Law Examiners website, and click the section headers to visit pages with more detailed information. You can find the multi department admission application here.
The New York Law Course is an online, on demand course on important and unique principles of New York law in the following subjects: Administrative Law, Business Relationships, Civil Practice and Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Matrimonial and Family Law, Professional Responsibility, Real Property, Torts and Tort Damages, and Trusts, Wills and Estates. It consists of approximately 15 hours of video lectures with embedded questions.
Upon completion of the NYLC, applicants take the New York Law Exam. The NYLE is offered four times each year (view dates here). Registration for the NYLE closes 30 days before the exam date and you may not register for the NYLE before you have completed the NYLC. Therefore, we recommend you plan to complete the NYLC more than 30 days before your preferred NYLE exam date.
If you require accommodations for the NYLE and are a new applicant, you must apply 90 days prior to the date of the NYLE. Please see more information here.
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice examination that is administered three times per year (view dates here). It is required for admission to the bars of all but three U.S. jurisdictions. Because MPRE requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another, examinees are advised to check with the bar admission agency in the jurisdiction to which they seek admission before registering for the MPRE. Passing scores are established by each jurisdiction.
If you require accommodations for the MPRE, you must request accommodations before you complete the NCBE portion of the MPRE registration process or schedule your test appointment. For detailed information about how to prepare and submit your request, see How to Prepare Your Request for MPRE Test Accommodations. We advise that your request be submitted as far in advance of your desired test administration as possible, and preferably by the Recommended Submission Date for that administration.
Applicants who commence their law school studies after August 1, 2016 must comply with the Skills Competency Requirement set forth in Section 520.18 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals. Applicants may satisfy this requirement by completing one of five separate pathways. St. John’s Law JD graduates complete Pathway 1 in the course of their studies.
Pursuant to Rule 520.16 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals, applicants who successfully pass the bar examination in New York State must demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service before applying for admission to practice. Please view the Pro Bono Requirement FAQs for more information.
Other State Requirements
Many St. John’s students may also take the New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida Bar Exams. Here are some of the requirements to be admitted to the Bar of those states. This is not an exhaustive list, so please be sure to confirm with the specific jurisdiction. You can find more information on the National Conference of Bar Examiners website, where you can find a guide for all jurisdictions with links to the states’ websites.
To be admitted to the New Jersey Bar one must:
- qualify for and pass the New Jersey bar examination or apply using a qualifying Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) score (minimum score: 266), or qualify and apply for admission by motion;
- pass the MPRE with a 75 or higher or pass an approved law school course on ethics with a “C-” or better.
To be admitted to the Connecticut Bar one must:
- qualify for and pass the Connecticut bar examination or apply using a qualifying Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) score (minimum score: 266), or qualify and apply for admission by motion;
- pass the MPRE with an 80 or higher or receive a grade of C or better in a professional responsibility course at an approved law school.
To be admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar one must:
- qualify for and pass the bar examination administered by or under the authority of the Board (Please note that Pennsylvania does not use the UBE for their bar exam);
- pass the MPRE with a 75 or higher.
*Note-In Feb. 2021 the PA Board of Law Examiners announced that Pennsylvania would adopt the UBE, starting with the July 2022 bar exam.
To be admitted to the Florida Bar one must:
- qualify for and pass the bar examination administered by or under the authority of the Board (Please note that Florida does not use the UBE for their bar exam);
- pass the MPRE with an 80 or higher.
Qualifying with an LL.M.
Qualifying to take the New York Bar Exam based on foreign legal education and an LL.M. can be a complicated process. The New York Board of Law Examiners, operating under the New York State Court of Appeals, sets the rules for who is allowed to sit for the New York Bar Exam. Those rules include very specific conditions about the mandatory courses and degrees. The first step to finding out if you qualify to sit for the New York Bar Exam with an LL.M. degree is requesting an advanced evaluation of eligibility from the Board of Law Examiners. This process requires an online application, original documentation confirming foreign credentials, and can take up to 8 months. St. John’s does not have any control over this process. The New York Board of Law Examiners explains the requirements for internationally educated lawyers and law graduates on their website, here.
All LL.M. students interested in qualifying for the bar exam should review the rules and deadlines and make an appointment with their academic advisor to discuss their plans to take the Bar Exam.
Bar Exam Loans
Below are options for lenders offering loans specifically for recent graduates studying for the bar exam. These loans are not endorsed by St. John’s Law and we do not recommend one over another. Please research thoroughly.
Do I need to select a department on the Form Law School Certificate?
Yes, you must check the department to which you are applying on the form.
What if I can’t get a response from a past employer to provide me with an affidavit of law-related employment?
Make sure to document your attempts: keep a record of your emails, phone calls, and mailed correspondence. Three or more attempts is reasonable over a 1-2 month period. Then in lieu of the missing affidavit, you submit an affidavit that attests to your good faith efforts at getting an affidavit from your legal employer.
If you have serious hardship in doing this, please contact the BOLE at (518) 453-5990.
Is there a pro bono requirement to graduate?
No, there is no pro bono requirement to earn your JD. However, St. John’s Law students who complete 500 or more hours of qualifying pro bono work are eligible to receive a Public Service Award at Commencement.
There is, however, a pro bono requirement to be admitted to the NYS Bar. Please see more information here. Note-for Spring 2020 graduates, the pro bono requirement has been waived by the NY Court of Appeals.