Bar Exam Requirements, Cost and Fees
What entails sitting for the BAR exam? Among the 41 jurisdictions that have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE®), there are certain states that have unique bar exam requirements. Not to forget, the non-UBE states have other requirements that need careful consideration to determine a candidate’s eligibility to sit for the bar.
Now that you are ready to tackle the bar, it’s time to understand each of these requirements, and the below article leaves no stone unturned. Since different states have specific requirements, the bar exam cost and fees may also vary. Let’s decode this one step at a time!
What Are The Bar Exam Requirements?
Addressing the key query here, "Can anyone and everyone take the bar exam?" The simple and short answer is, no. The bar exam is designed for unique candidates who are poised to become licensed attorneys in their desired state and possess rock-solid qualifications and skill sets. This criteria ranges from educational requirements to professional responsibility eligibility to formal admission and so forth.
Legal Education Requirements
Candidates for the bar exam are expected to have completed a rigorous academic curriculum throughout their time studying law.
Here are the major educational requirements to be eligible to apply for the bar exam:
- You need to complete your law school as a prerequisite for admission in most states
- Some states, like Arizona and Texas, let you apply for the bar exam prior to law school completion i.e. before the last semester of your law school.
- States like Virginia, California, and Vermont do not require a degree per se. However, they require you to have an apprenticeship with a licensed legal practitioner for a predetermined amount of time.
Here are the statewise educational requirements to apply for the bar exam:
Professional Responsibility Requirements
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE®), developed and administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®), is a two-hour, 60-question, multiple-choice examination that is administered three times a year. However, there are only two U.S. territories where the MPRE isn't required for admission to the bar: Wisconsin and Puerto Rico. Candidates are recommended to verify with the bar admission office in the jurisdiction in which they wish to be admitted before registering for the MPRE because the timing of when to take the MPRE differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and each state sets its own passing score (see below).
|75||Alabama, D.C., Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Palau, Pennsylvania, Virgin Islands|
|80||Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Guam, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia|
|85||Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Y9ork, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming|
The MPRE tests your knowledge of recognized standards relating to the conduct and discipline of attorneys and judges. The MPRE tests the rules and regulations laid forth in the American Bar Association (ABA) Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The exam was designed by the NCBE to test your knowledge of the ethics and principles related to a lawyer’s professional conduct and responsibilities.
Note: Connecticut and New Jersey will accept a "C" or better in a course in Professional Responsibility from an ABA-approved law school in place of a passing MPRE score.
The majority of states do not require applicants to be residents of the state to sit for the bar exam. Only Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island have residency requirements tailored to meet their requirements.
Character and fitness requirements
If you want to practice law in your state, you'll need to prove that you meet certain character and fitness requirements, too. However, not every state has written laws that outline expectations for behavior and character. Your state's board of bar examiners may ask for details regarding your criminal record and financial obligations. This can be from your law school, an internship, or even qualified work experience reference letters.
A prospective attorney must submit an official application for admission after meeting all requirements. This last step might be carried out in different ways.
For example, in California, an applicant for admission must take an oath in front of any state judge or notary public, who will then co-sign the application.
Upon receipt of the completed form, the new admittee will be added to the official roster of attorneys maintained by the State Bar of California. This list of recommended applicants for admission to the bar will then be confirmed by the Supreme Court of California at its consecutive regular weekly session.
Large, optional ceremonial admission ceremonies are held by the state bar in collaboration with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and federal district courts, typically in the same convention facilities where new admittees take the bar examination.
New admittees in other jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia, are required to appear in person in a special session of court to take the oath of admission in open court rather than before any readily accessible judge or notary public.
Bar Exam Costs & Fees
Three years of dedicated study has prepared you to sit for the bar exam. A culmination of endless hours of work. This, alas, does not mean that your dues are paid in full (literally)! You will have to dole out a significant amount of funds to sit for the bar exam, between registration fees, bar preparation courses, and travel and hotel accommodations (if necessary), there are many expenses that may otherwise slip your mind. So, how much does the bar exam cost approximately?
UBE Bar Exam Fees
Though unified by a common bar exam format, UBE states, too, have unique costs and fees that differ from state to state, including the structure of its bar exam, the application deadlines, and requirements for admission to the bar. For example, first-time takers, or otherwise known as non attorney applicants, have a completely different fee structure than attorney candidates.
Given the myriad of rules and regulations, every bar exam applicant must be well-informed about the jurisdiction’s norms in which they wish to practice. Please select the appropriate jurisdiction below for more information regarding your state's filing process and registration fees.
|Jurisdiction||For first-time takers||For attorneys||For repeaters||Laptop Fee|
|Alabama||$575 (plus C&F fee)||$575 (plus C&F fee)||$575||$121|
|D.C||$232 (plus C&F fee)||$232 (plus C&F fee)||$232 (plus C&F fee)||varies|
|Idaho||$600||$800||$200 / $300||$125|
|Illinois||$950 – $1,450||$950 – $1,450||$500 – $850||$105|
|Iowa||$550 / $800||$800||$550 (non-attorney)
|Kentucky||$875 / $1,125 / $1,375||$1,200 / $1,450 / $1,700||$325||varies|
|Maine||$600||$650 (plus C&F fee)||$600 (non-attorney)
(plus C&F fee)
|Michigan (UBE effective Feb 2023)||$775||$775||$300||varies|
|Missouri||$485 / $910||$485 / $910||$485 / $585||$105|
|Montana||$620 (plus C&F fee)||$875||$310||$125|
|Nebraska||$490 / $590 (plus processing fee)||$490 / $590 (plus processing fee)||$225 / $490 / $590 (plus processing fee)||$100|
|New Mexico||$500 / $1,000||$500 / $1,000||$100||$100|
|New York||$250 / $750||$250 / $750||$250 / $750||$100|
|North Dakota||$150 (plusC&F fee)||$150 (plus C&F fee)||$150 (plus C&F fee)||$110|
|Oklahoma||$650 (plusC&F fee)||$1,250 (plus C&F fee)||$650 (plus C&F fee)||$125|
|Oregon||$750||$1,350||$750 / $1,350||$150|
|South Carolina||$1,000 / $1,500||$1,000 / $1,500 (plus $750)||$1,000 / $1,500||$125|
|Tennessee||$625 (plus C&F fee)||$625 (plus C&F fee)||$450 (plus C&F fee)||$100|
|Texas||$300 / $490 / $1,140||$1,040 / $1,140||$225||$120|
|Vermont||$300 (plus C&F fee)||$300 (plus C&F fee)||$300 (plus C&F fee)||$0|
|Washington||$585||$620 (plus C&F fee)||$585||$95|
|West Virginia||$500 (plus C&F fee)||$800 (plus C&F fee)||$500||$125|
|Wyoming||$600(plus C&F fee)||$600 (plus C&F fee)||$600 (plus C&F fee)||$77|
|Virgin Islands||$100 (plus C&F fee)||$100 (plus C&F fee)||$500 / $500||$150|
As outlined in the above table, you must pay a registration fee to take the bar exam in any U.S. jurisdiction. The Board of Bar Examiners (or its equivalent) in your state is the typical recipient of these fees, which can range from $100 to $1,300 if you’re a non-attorney (first-time taker). If you are a licensed attorney in one state and wish to get licensed in another, however, you may have to pay a higher registration fee for that state's bar exam.
On the other hand, repeat test-takers will often pay a lesser fee than first-timers in some states. In the state of Florida, for instance, the bar exam fee is $1000 for first-time takers but only $450 for repeaters.
Note: Reciprocity, or the opportunity to practice law in another state without taking its bar exam, is offered by some (but not all) states.
You may incur additional expenses inclusive of the registration fees, called the filing fees. Similar to registration fees, filing fees vary considerably from state to state. To learn more, read the NCBE 2022 Comprehensive Guide.
Some bar exam candidates prefer to type essays instead of hand-writing them. This incurs an additional $200 (at least) to get the software. Though this is optional, it is gaining more and more momentum among bar takers, and may be a wise investment to complete the exam in the allotted time.
There is no “one size fits all” method for studying for the bar exam, not unlike different approaches to LSAT preparation. Most bar exam takers, however, will choose to study for the exam using a bar preparation course. With many options to choose from, the cost of a prep course will vary significantly. Most of the time, though, a full bar review course typically costs at least a few thousand dollars. Some exam takers will also purchase supplemental study tools, which can cost an additional few hundred dollars.
If you're lucky enough to already have a job when you pass the bar exam in your state and you are looking to sit in another jurisdiction, many firms will help you with paying for study resources. No matter who pays for it, though, taking a course to prepare for the bar exam is a good idea.
First-time takers who use Themis Bar Review to prepare have historically better results! Bundling the Themis course with UWorld’s MBE QBank, you won’t have to pay for a course plus a supplement; not to mention, you get to practice with licensed NCBE questions from past bar exams. This will give you a leg up when preparing for the MBE portion of the bar exam!
Most bar review courses will provide you with bar prep textbooks, and purchasing them independent of a course can be quite expensive. New books can cost you anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000. Some of the most expensive books on their own cost $300 or more. Although you can rent or buy used textbooks for cheaper, it’s not typically recommended to go this route because—beyond the mounting costs—there’s no way to know whether the materials are up-to-date.
When calculating the cost of taking the bar exam, it's essential to factor in the exam fee and other incidental expenses, such as living expenses and meals. If you don't live close to the testing center, you'll have to book a hotel for two nights. You'll need to buy food, and perhaps transportation costs, such as gas or a plane ticket. Unfortunately, this is an expense that many students ignore while budgeting for the bar exam. This can easily add several hundred dollars (or more) to the cost of your bar exam.
Professional Sabbatical Expenses
Very few companies and organizations allow non-executive employees to take a sabbatical. Even if you can take a sabbatical, you usually have to pay for it yourself. But a paid sabbatical is not impossible. You might be able to take a sabbatical if you:
- Find money to cover your expenses while you're on unpaid leave
- Show your employer that the time away will benefit both of you.
With a paid, short-term professional fellowship, you can do both of these things. There are a number of fellowships that are designed to help employees get hands-on experience that can be used right away at work.