Admission to the Bar

Before law school graduates can practice law, they must apply for admission to a state bar. While each jurisdiction sets its own qualifications, admission typically requires that an applicant pass a professional responsibility exam, pass a bar examination, and satisfy the jurisdiction’s requirements for character and fitness to practice law.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) publishes a Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements that gives general information about the bar exam as well as a directory of state bar admission agencies.

Professional Responsibility Exam

Almost all states require an applicant to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Many, but not all, jurisdictions have time parameters within which a certain MPRE score must be earned or achieved. Oregon requires an applicant to pass the MPRE before being admitted to the bar and the passing score must have been earned within 24 months of passing the Oregon Bar Exam.

The MPRE is a two-hour, 60-question exam that tests the established standards for the professional conduct of lawyers. The MPRE is administered three times per year and students can take it during law school. Typically, students will study for and take the MPRE either during or right after they have taken Oregon Law’s Legal Profession course.

Character and Fitness

Each state bar has its own requirements for an applicant’s character and fitness. In Oregon, the Board of Bar Examiners is responsible for reviewing applicants for character and fitness. In making its determination, the Board is looking for “acts or conduct which would cause a reasonable person to have substantial doubts about the individual's honesty, fairness, and respect for the rights of others and for the laws of the state and the nation.” ORS 9.220. Character and fitness are initially assessed through information disclosed by the applicant on the applicant’s Bar Exam Application as well as with information from the applicant’s former employers and character references.

The Bar Exam

In almost all states, the bar exam consists of three distinct components: an essay exam, performance tasks, and a multiple-choice exam. About half of all U.S. jurisdictions draft and administer an exam that is unique to their jurisdiction; however, many jurisdictions, including Oregon have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). The UBE is coordinated by the NCBE and consists of the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).

One advantage of taking the bar exam in a UBE jurisdiction is that an applicant can transfer her score from one jurisdiction to another. For example, an applicant could apply for and take the bar exam in Oregon and then transfer her score to any other UBE jurisdiction. The Oregon bar exam lasts two days and is administered twice a year: once in July and again in February.

The Multistate Essay Examination

The MEE consists of six 30-minute essay questions. The MEE accounts for 30% of a bar applicant’s overall score. The thirteen subjects that are tested on the MEE are:

1. Business Associations 8. Federal Civil Procedure
2. Conflict of Laws 9. Real Property
3. Contracts 10. Sales
4. Constitutional Law 11. Secured Transactions
5. Criminal Law and Procedure 12. Torts
6. Evidence 13. Trusts and Estates
7. Family Law

The Multistate Performance Test

The MPT consists of two 90-minute performance tasks. The MPT accounts for 20% of a bar applicant’s overall score.   

The Multistate Bar Examination

The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions which applicants answer over a six-hour period and which accounts for 50% of a bar applicant’s overall score. The seven subjects that are tested on the MBE are:

  1. Civil Procedure
  2. Constitutional Law
  3. Contracts, including Sales
  4. Criminal Law and Procedure
  5. Evidence
  6. Real Property 
  7. Torts