MPRE® Outline

Everything You need to Know about MPRE Topics

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®) is a multi-choice exam administered by the National Council of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) that tests your knowledge of the standards that govern and preside over a lawyer’s professional conduct. Simply put, the MPRE outlines what kind of decorum you should display as an attorney.

This MPRE exam covers a variety of topics including your role as a lawyer, the client-lawyer relationship, client confidentiality, judicial conduct, and conflicts of interest, as well as many others. While each subject is important, certain areas are tested more frequently than others and carry more weight when it comes to your overall score. For example, you can expect to find 12-18% of questions on the MPRE exam to be about conflicts of interest, while judicial conduct-related questions only account for 2-8% of questions on the exam.

In other words, the MPRE exam places a higher emphasis on certain questions, considering them to be more prevalent in someone’s legal career than others. This MPRE outline can help you best prepare for the upcoming MPRE exam.

MPRE Frequency Chart

Below is the MPRE Frequency Chart. This chart lays out the number of questions on the exam. The MPRE Frequency Chart also lists the percentage of each topic on the MPRE. This chart can help you have a better understanding of what areas to focus on in your studies:

MPRE Frequency Chart
MPRE Topics % Tested No.of Questions
Conflicts of Interest 12-18% 6-9
The client-lawyer relationship 10-16% 5-8
Litigation and other forms of advocacy 10-16% 5-8
Regulation of the legal profession 6-12% 3-6
Client Confidentiality 6-12% 3-6
Competence, legal malpractice, and other civil liability 6-12% 3-6
Different roles of the lawyer 4-10% 2-5
Communications about legal services 4-10% 2-5
Transactions and communications with persons other than clients 2-8% 1-4
Safekeeping funds and other property 2-8% 1-4
Judicial conduct 2-8% 1-4
Lawyers duties to the public and the legal system 2-4% 1-4
Total scored questions 50

As briefly mentioned above, the most highly tested questions on the MPRE outline exam include conflicts of interest, the client-lawyer relationship, client confidentiality, and legal profession regulation. These are the topics you will come across the most on the 60-question exam, so studying for them is a must.

Conflicts of interest account for 12-18% of all questions, whereas the client-lawyer relationship accounts for 10-16% of questions. The client-lawyer relationship topic will cover various subtopics, such as the formation of the attorney-client relationship, contracts, fees, and the scope and means of the legal representation provided. On the other hand, conflicts of interest cover topics such as third-party influence or compensation, conflicts involving former or prospective clients, and the lawyer's personal interests.

Client confidentiality accounts for the privilege between an attorney and their client, authorized disclosure, and work-product doctrines that outline the client-lawyer relationship. Regulation of the legal profession, which accounts for 6-12% of questions, focuses on the unauthorized practice of law, the responsibilities of legal partners and subordinate lawyers, the power of the court to regulate lawyers, their admission into the profession, and discipline.

Competence, legal malpractice, and other civil liability make up 6-12% of questions and covers lawyers' civil liability owed to both clients and non-clients, as well as malpractice insurance and liability. Litigation and other forms of advocacy account for approximately 10-16% of questions and explore areas of litigation, including fairness to other counsel, trial publicity, and candor to the tribunal (also known as the court). Communications about legal services make up a slightly smaller percentage of only 4-10% of questions. This section goes over solicitation, referrals, and the operation of group legal services.

A lawyer's different roles, which account for 4-10% of questions, will cover your role as an advisor, negotiation, mediator, and arbitrator - common roles you may take on during your legal profession. It also tests what to expect when representing a company or organization.

The last few questions include a lawyer's duties to the public, legal system, safekeeping funds, judicial conduct, and transactions and communications with persons other than clients. These are the least tested questions on the exam. The topic of a lawyer's duty to the public and legal system makes up 2-4% of questions and discusses pro bono service, criticizing judges, and assisting in judicial misconduct. You can expect to see 2-8 % of questions be about safekeeping funds and other property, as well as judicial conduct. Safekeeping funds and other property covers disputed claims and safeguarding a client or third-party's funds or property. At the same time, judicial conduct focuses on ex parte communications, extrajudicial activities, and maintaining judicial impartiality.

Transactions and communications with persons other than clients make up 2-8% of questions. These questions cover communications with both represented and unrepresented individuals and the respect for the rights of third parties.

Learn how examiners test the Rules of Professional Responsibility.
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Understanding MPRE Topics

Now that you are familiar with the MPRE outline, let's discuss each of the 12 different MPRE topics in greater depth in order to be best prepared for the MPRE exam.

Regulation of the legal profession

Lawyers represent the legal system and need to adhere to a strict code of conduct that informs how they represent their clients and practice law. The American Bar Association's (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct outline how a lawyer should act; however, specific rules may vary based on each jurisdiction throughout the country, especially regarding how they can practice law. Generally speaking, most states require potential lawyers to have earned or completed most of their undergraduate degree and graduated from an American Bar Association-approved law school to qualify for the bar exam.

Before being admitted into law, all candidates must adhere to a background check and undergo a mental fitness evaluation. Suppose a lawyer candidate has a criminal history. In that case, they may relay that information during their interview and, depending on the crime, may still be admitted to practice law, except for ongoing substance abuse issues or fraud.

During the exam, you will also cover subtopics regarding the unauthorized practice of law, which states that those who don't have the legal right to do so can't practice law. Furthermore, you will only be able to practice law in the state you are granted to do so. If you are licensed in New York but want to try a case in Pennsylvania, you may obtain pro hac vice admission if you are in good standing in the court. However, if it is not granted, you won't be able to practice legally in the state.

This topic also extends to legal malpractice and professional misconduct. Often, professional misconduct leads to some disciplinary action and usually finds the lawyer's actions dishonest or done in a way that fails to meet their lawyer-client obligations. According to the ABA's Model Rules, harassment, discrimination, and fraud are all examples of professional misconduct.

Similarly, legal malpractice, such as failing to meet deadlines or file a claim within the statute of limitations, failure to appear in court, or severe misinterpretation of the law, can all lead to a legal malpractice claim. Not every instance of a lawyer's actions may be considered malpractice; sometimes, cases can’t be won despite all the correct steps being taken. An unfavorable outcome is not an example of legal malpractice, just when gross negligence is involved.

A lawyer may face sanctions in cases of legal malpractice and professional misconduct. A sanction is a monetary fine that the lawyer is responsible for paying. Depending on the offense committed, a lawyer may face suspension, requiring them to submit an ethics examination before re-entering the court. In worse scenarios, permanent disbarment takes away their right to practice law. Generally speaking, though, most states will disbar someone for only a couple of years.

Even though we've covered a lot in this section, you should only expect between three and six questions about the topic of regulation of the legal profession. Though only a small percentage of questions, they make up 6% to 12% of your exam.

The client-lawyer relationship

The client-lawyer relationship is important because, without trust, a case will become more difficult for everyone involved, especially when it involves representing a client in a court of law. A client should be able to ask their lawyer questions and receive honest feedback. As such, the lawyer should be available to speak with their clients when they have questions or concerns to help develop trust and strengthen that relationship.

Subtopics covered on the MPRE include the formation of the client-lawyer relationship, the means for reputation, applicable fees, the authority of decision making, client-lawyer contracts, how counsel can assist a client within the confines of the law, ending the client-lawyer relationship, and the types of communication that are appropriate between a client and lawyer. According to Rule 1.8 of the ABA, in the client-lawyer relationship, a lawyer cannot and should not provide any financial assistance to the client unless they are advancing court costs or are working pro bono and through an agency, providing food, transportation, or rent to the client.

Client confidentiality

Client confidentiality pertains to the client-lawyer relationship. Rule 1.6 of the ABA states that client confidentiality is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship. The difference between the rule of confidentiality and attorney-client privilege is that the former is designed to keep a tribunal (aka the court) from compelling the revelation of a communication between an attorney and their client. The latter is a professional obligation of a lawyer to their client not to reveal information that relates to the client.

Client confidentiality takes up to three to six questions on the test, covering between 6% and 12% of the total exam questions. Subtopics include:

  • Attorney-client privilege.
  • Work-product doctrine.
  • The professional obligation of confidentiality.
  • Disclosures expressly or impliedly authorized by the client.
  • Other exceptions to the confidentiality rule.

Conflicts of interest

There are a few different types of conflicts of interest. More specifically, there are two different "current client" conflicts. The first is having a client that is directly adverse to other clients you may currently have. One example is that you can't represent two people in the same divorce. The other conflict is representing clients materially linked to other clients, such as a former client, a third person, or someone of personal interest to the lawyer. There's also a conflict of interest regarding how it affects a former client, representation in a government case, and disputes between attorney and client.

Conflicts of interest are the most heavily weighted subject on the test. Between six and nine questions will cover 12% to 18% of the total test. The subtopics you should study include current client conflicts (both the lawyer's interest and duties and multiple clients and joint representation), former client conflicts, prospective client conflicts, imputed conflicts, acquiring an interest in litigation, business transactions with clients, third-party compensation and influence, lawyers formerly or currently in government service, and former judges, and mediators.

Competence, legal malpractice, and other civil liability

Competence states that a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client, providing legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. For someone to sue you for legal malpractice, they must prove negligence on your part, which means they must prove duty, breach, causation, and harm to sue you for malpractice successfully. Civil liability is when a client wishes to sue you for malpractice. This is different from being disciplined. Civil liability means a client takes you to court to sue you for damages. Discipline means you're in front of a disciplinary board about possibly getting your license suspended or facing debarment.

Competence, legal malpractice, and other civil liability take up to three to six questions on the test, covering between 6% and 12% of the exam. The subtopics include maintaining competence, competence necessary to undertake representation, exercising diligence and care, civil liability to the client including malpractice, civil liability to nonclients, limiting liability for malpractice, malpractice insurance, and risk prevention.

Litigation and other forms of advocacy

When it comes to honesty in the courtroom, a lawyer may not knowingly make a false statement, offer false evidence, or fail to disclose controlling and adverse authority not disclosed by the opposing counsel. If a lawyer does any of these and finds out about it later, they are to correct themselves in court.

A lawyer can't knowingly put a witness on the stand if they plan to either testify falsely or present false evidence. A lawyer must first dissuade a witness from testifying falsely. If the witness can't be swayed from testifying falsely, the lawyer has the right to refuse to put the witness on the stand, and the witness loses their right to testify.

Litigation and other forms of advocacy take up to five to eight questions or between 10% and 16% of the exam. Subtopics include meritorious claims and contentions, expediting litigation, candor to the tribunal, fairness to opposing party and counsel, impartiality and decorum of the tribunal, trial publicity, and a lawyer as a witness.

Transactions and communications with persons other than clients

This section is one to four questions long, or between 2% and 8% of the test. It covers four subtopics, including truthfulness in statements to others, communications with a person represented by counsel, dealing with an unrepresented person, and respect for the rights of third persons.

Truthfulness in statements to others covers when a lawyer shall not make a false statement of law or material fact to a third person when representing a client. Communication with a person represented by counsel covers that you're not allowed to discuss a matter involving your client with another person you know is represented by the opposing counsel. There are a few exceptions, including oral approval when counsel is given adequate notice or approval is written in the official proceedings.

Dealing with an unrepresented person covers what you can and cannot do with someone who doesn't have legal counsel. You can't give them legal advice, stating or implying that you're disinterested.

Respect for the rights of third persons covers the fact that you can't use means that have no substantial purpose to obtain evidence that violates the legal rights of a third person. You must notify the sender immediately if you receive writing from a client represented by a different lawyer.

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Different roles the lawyer

There are a few different roles that a lawyer has. As an advisor, a lawyer is responsible for using their judgment and offering legal advice to their client. As an evaluator, a lawyer can evaluate a situation to help clients get something they need. If the lawyer knows that the evaluation will adversely affect the client beforehand, the lawyer cannot provide an evaluation unless the client consents. As a third-party neutral, a lawyer may work with two or more individuals to help settle a matter as a mediator or arbitrator.

Different roles of the lawyer take up two to five questions or between 4% and 10% of the test. Subtopics include a lawyer as an advisor, a lawyer as an evaluator, a lawyer as a negotiator, a lawyer as arbitrator, mediator, or other third party neutral, prosecutors or other government lawyers, a lawyer appearing in Non-adjudicative proceeding, and a lawyer representing an entity or organization.

Safekeeping funds and other property

The safekeeping of funds, as dictated in Rule 1.5 of the ABA, states that if a client gives you money, you must keep that money in a separate account from your own. You cannot use a client's money like yours or your firm's. You are not allowed to borrow and replenish client funds. You may deposit money into your account to cover bank charges. You can also hold property for your client as long as it's identified as such and adequately safeguarded.

This section is one to four questions long, or between 2% and 8% of the test. Subtopics include establishing and maintaining client trust accounts, safekeeping funds and other clients, other property of third persons, and disputed claims.

Communications about legal services

For this section, lawyers can advertise their services using any media and include basic information like addresses, the types of services they provide, and the prices they charge. Lawyers cannot pay referral fees unless it's for advertising, the usual charges of a legal service plan, as part of a reciprocal referral arrangement, or to give nominal gifts as an expression of gratitude. You cannot directly solicit a potential client to represent them for financial gain. Any communications about a lawyer or their services can't be misleading or false.

This section is two to five questions long, or between 4% and 10% of the test. Subtopics include advertising and other public communications about legal services, solicitation - direct contact with prospective clients, group legal services, referrals, and communication regarding fields of practice and specialization.

Lawyers’ duties to the public and the legal system

Rules 6.1 and 7.6 of the ABA, state a lawyer's duties to the public and to the legal system. A lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide free services to those that can't afford a lawyer. A lawyer should aspire to provide 50 hours of pro bono work per year; however, this is only aspirational and not mandatory.

A lawyer can serve in a legal services organization as an officer, director, or member as long as it doesn't conflict with the best interest of your clients or your firm. A lawyer cannot make a statement that is known to be false about a judge or other public officer.

Judicial conduct

As detailed in the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge is expected to conduct themselves by a code of conduct. A judge is expected to be independent and impartial while avoiding impropriety. A judge should conduct extrajudicial and personal activities to minimize a conflict of interest. A judge should not get involved with political or campaign activity inconsistent with their independence and impartiality.

This section is one to four questions long, or between 2% and 8% of the test. Subtopics include maintaining the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, performing the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently, ex parte communications, disqualification, and extrajudicial activities.

What are the easiest and hardest topics?

While studying for the MPRE, you may have questions about which topics will be the easiest and hardest to answer. Generally speaking, the most tested topic would have to be conflicts of interest. It's the highest percentage of the test (about 20% of the questions), meaning it will cover the most ground of what you've studied. The most challenging topic to learn would be a lawyer's duties to the public and the legal system. This is because this test portion only covers one or two questions. This makes it more difficult to predict what MPRE subjects you will see on the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are a total of 12 different topics tested on the MPRE.

It would be best if you learned all the topics for the MPRE because even though they might not all get covered on the test, there’s no way to know which topics will and won’t get covered in advance. Keep in mind that 50 out of the 60 questions on the exam are graded; however, it’s hard to differentiate the graded questions from the non-graded questions.

The three topics that are covered the most on the MPRE are conflicts of interest, the client-lawyer relationship, litigation, and other forms of advocacy. Since these are covered the most on the exam, it’s recommended that you focus on these topics first.

Generally, you should spend about 20 hours studying for this exam, but it will vary from person to person. It’s recommended that you start studying for the MPRE at least two weeks before taking it. If you don’t want to cram, studying three or four weeks in advance should allow you enough time to familiarize yourself with all of the MPRE subjects. This MPRE study outline will help prepare you for the exam.

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