What You Should Know About the 2022 DC Bar Exam

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The DC Committee on Admission (DC Bar Examiners) adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in July 2016. Since then, many more people have sat for the DC Bar Exam. This article will provide general and specific information about the DC Bar Exam to help you properly weigh your options and prepare adequately to succeed on exam day.

Exam Dates and Administration

As the name suggests, the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is uniformly administered, graded, and scored across all UBE member jurisdictions. The UBE offers applicants the opportunity to transfer their scores for admission to the bar in other UBE jurisdictions. This means that attorneys seeking to practice law in multiple jurisdictions need only to take and pass a single UBE exam and use their portable score to join the bar at other UBE jurisdictions where they wish to practice.

The exam comprises the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Like all UBE jurisdictions, the DC Bar Exam is conducted twice a year, in February and July—specifically, the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July.

On the first day of the DC UBE, the examinees take the MPT in the morning and the MEE in the afternoon. The MPT tests two different types of writing assignments while the MEE features six essays, and both exams last three hours each. On the second day, examinees will have six hours to complete the MBE, which consists of two 3-hour sessions (morning and afternoon) testing 100 multiple-choice questions each.

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UBE Schedule Summary

Exam Sessions Exam Component Format & Hours
Tuesday Morning MPT 2 Items, 3 Hours
Tuesday Afternoon MEE 6 Essays, 3 Hours
Wednesday Morning MBE 100 Questions, 3 Hours
Wednesday Afternoon MBE 100 Questions, 3 hours
Tuesday Morning
MPT

2 Items, 3 Hours
Tuesday Afternoon
MEE

6 Essays, 3 Hours
Wednesday Morning
MBE

100 Questions, 3 Hours
Wednesday Afternoon
MBE

100 Questions, 3 hours

July 2022 Registration Filing Period

Priority Registration is from May 12 to May 17 and restricted to first-time bar exam takers who have received a Juris Doctorate from a Washington, DC law school. These DC law schools include:

  • American University, Washington College of Law
  • Columbus School of Law, The Catholic University of America
  • David A. Clarke school of Law, University of the District of Columbia
  • George Washington University Law School
  • Georgetown University Law Center
  • Howard University School of Law

General registration for ALL applicants will open on May 18 until all seats are filled.

On May 12, the DC Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions announced they have increased their seating capacity from 1,100 to 1,550 seats. The University of the District of Columbia will provide the 450 extra seats above the 1,100 sets available at the DC Armory.

Accommodations Requests are due at the time of application or no later than May 22, 2022.

Click here to view all July 2022 DC Bar Exam announcements.

Please take note of the following relevant DC exam dates, location, and filing fees:

Examination Dates July 26-27 (Tuesday & Wednesday)
Examination Location D.C Armory
2001 E Capitol St SE
Washington DC, 20003
(Seating capacity is limited to 1,550)

Examination Fee
First-Time Applicant: $232.00
+ additional NCBE investigation fee
Re-Take Only $232.00
Examination Dates July 26-27 (Tuesday & Wednesday)
Examination Location D.C Armory
2001 E Capitol St SE
Washington DC, 20003
(Seating capacity is limited to 1,100)

Examination Fee
First-Time Applicant: $232.00
+ additional NCBE investigation fee
Re-Take Only $232.00

Source: DC Bar Admissions Bar Exam Fees

ALL FEES ARE NON-REFUNDABLE AND NON-TRANSFERABLE.

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Structure & Subjects

Overall, the UBE assesses examinees’ knowledge and understanding of general legal principles, factual analysis, legal analysis and reasoning, and communication skills to evaluate their competencies and readiness to practice law in any jurisdiction.

The MPT presents test-takers with a simulated case file based on a realistic scenario with a packet of various legal materials. Examinees will show their lawyering skills by using the materials provided to respond to the assignment(s). These assignments frequently involve law not tested on the bar exam (e.g., Professional Responsibility). Examinees will have to answer two such cases in 90 minutes each for a testing time of three hours.

Testable Subjects on the MEE:

The MEE challenges students with six 30-minute essays lasting three hours. The MEE tests the following subjects, which include seven subjects also tested on the MBE:

  • Business Associations
    (Agency, Partnerships, and Corporations)
  • Civil Procedure
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Trusts & Estates (Trusts and Wills)
  • UCC Article 9 (Secured Transactions)

Even though there are six essays, more than six subjects can be tested. In other words, a single fact pattern may have questions that implicate one or more different areas of the law. For instance, in the July 2020 UBE, Corporations was tested with Constitutional Law. With that being said, not all subjects are tested evenly.

While Civil Procedure is also tested on the MBE, it is the most frequently tested subject on the MEE. Since February 2014, Civil Procedure has been tested more than 71% of the time (either as a component or an entire essay). During this period, the top 5 most frequently tested subjects on the MEE have been:

  1. Civil Procedure (71%);
  2. Contracts (59%);
  3. Real Property (59%);
  4. Constitutional Law (53%); and
  5. Secured Transactions (53%)

Testable Subjects on the MBE:

The MBE tests examinees across the following subjects in 200 multiple-choice questions lasting six hours:

  • Contracts
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Civil Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts

Of the 200 questions, 25 questions are considered “experimental” and not scored. The other 175 questions are divided evenly so that 25 questions are counted toward your score for each subject. In other words, there would be 25 scored Contracts questions on the MBE.

Note: Before you can practice law in the District of Columbia, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The MPRE features 60 multiple-choice questions administered over two hours.

What Makes DC Bar Licensure Process Unique?

DC has a jurisdiction-specific component that examinees must complete. Upon admission to the DC bar, all applicants must complete a mandatory course on DC Rules of Professional Conduct, and DC Practice within 12 months.

DC rules provide for Admission on Motion, meaning an attorney licensed in other jurisdictions can be admitted into the DC bar without taking the DC Bar Exam. Eligible applicants will have been a member of any other bar of any state or territory of the United States in good standing for at least three years immediately preceding the filing of the application.

DC Bar Application

There are several different ways to become licensed in DC:

  1. Application for Admission by Examination
  2. Application for Admission by Transferred UBE
  3. Motion by 3-Year Provision

Generally, the main components of the application process break down as follows:

DC Bar Exam Application Process

  1. The application itself;
  2. Achieving a score of 75 or higher on the MPRE; and
  3. The Character and Fitness Questionnaire (more on the C&F Questionnaire later in this article).

To apply for DC licensure, you must first create an account; then, after registering, proceed to the application webpage and select "Apply" to begin your application. Once you have filled out all forms and uploaded all relevant documents, you must pay the registration fee through the DC Bar Exam website. Note that payment for the C&F Questionnaire is collected separately by the National Conference of Bar Examiners® (NCBE®).

As indicated above, generally, applicants need to get a score of 75 or higher on the MPRE to become licensed in DC. You may do this before or after you sit for the DC Bar Exam. However, it needs to be satisfied before you are eligible for admission, so procrastinating taking the MPRE can delay the licensure process.

Note that an exception to this requirement is Admission Based on Motion by 3-Year Provision – attorneys applying under this provision need not satisfy the MPRE requirement.

All of this notwithstanding, the registration and DC components of the applications are not very burdensome. Nonetheless, many applicants find the Character & Fitness (C&F) Questionnaire to be rather time-consuming.

Character and Fitness

Like other jurisdictions, part of the DC licensure process is the application’s Character and Fitness component. The C&F is essentially a background check; an applicant will fill out information ranging from previous addresses to moving violations. The jurisdiction’s bar examiners will then use that information to investigate the applicant to determine if they are fit to practice law.

There are a few phases to DC’s C&F component. First, the applicant must complete the C&F Questionnaire along with their bar exam application. This questionnaire is then sent to the NCBE to do the initial investigation and compile a C&F report for each applicant.

The last phase of the C&F process is the DC Bar Examiners review of the NCBE C&F report, and conducting the final investigation (if needed) to determine whether the applicant passes the C&F component. During the latter part of this process, the DC Bar Examiners may reach out to applicants directly to ask for follow-up questions, further substantiation, or additional materials.

Note that the DC Bar Examiners do not begin this part of the C&F process until after an applicant is otherwise eligible for admission (e.g., has passed the bar exam, earned an MPRE score of 75, possesses an eligible law degree, etc.).

The following is a list of information we have noticed that generally takes DC Bar applicants the longest amount of time to gather for the C&F component of the application:

  • Residence history
    • All addresses where you’ve lived for the last ten years or since you were 18 years old (whichever is shorter). If you maintained multiple addresses, like college housing and a relative’s, you would include both.
  • Employment history
    • All places where you’ve worked for the last ten years or since you were 18 years old (whichever is shorter). Employment includes paid or unpaid work, volunteer work, externships, self-employment, etc. You would include names and contact information for supervisors, colleagues, or people who can substantiate your work. You would also include details about periods of unemployment.
  • Moving violations
    • You would provide information about speeding tickets or other moving violations that you have had within ten years of completing the C&F Questionnaire.
  • Character references
    • Information about at least six people who have known you, preferably for a minimum of five years. The DC Bar Examiners prefer that you include at least one reference from each locality where you have lived over the last ten years. Additionally, the references cannot be related to you by blood or marriage, currently live with you, or be people you are already using as references in the employment section.
  • Any legal judgments, liens, bankruptcy, misconduct, arrests, convictions
    • These include matters that have been dismissed, expunged, or otherwise set aside. In addition to explanations, you would provide documents and other substantiation.

Because filling out the C&F Questionnaire can be rather time-consuming, consider reviewing it before applying: DC C&F Questionnaire.

DC Foreign-Trained Attorney and LL.M Licensure

Unlike most jurisdictions, DC permits foreign-trained attorneys to become licensed initially with a DC Bar License. However, please find a list of a few other things you should know below:

  1. 26 Credits in Bar-Subject-Focused Courses
  2. Additional Application Differences
  3. Special Legal Consultant

26 Credits in Bar-Subject-Focused Courses

First, unless a foreign-trained attorney or foreign LL.M has been awarded a J.D. or LL.B. from an ABA-accredited law school, they must have completed at least 26 credit hours at an ABA-accredited law school in UBE bar-subject-focused courses. Some examples of courses that would likely qualify would be criminal law, criminal procedure, contracts, professional responsibility, or business associations.

Further, these courses should either have been conducted in person or comply with the definition of “distance education course” under the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. It is advisable to consult the registrar or dean of students at your ABA-accredited law school when considering distance courses to make sure that they comply with such definition.

Additional Application Differences

In addition to the application components that ABA-accredited law school graduates need to complete, LL.M applicants must also submit the following documents:

  1. Declaration of Graduation from a non-ABA-Approved Law School
  2. Declaration of Completion/Anticipated Completion of 26 Credit Hours at an ABA-Approved Law School
  3. Copy of Diploma from non-ABA-Approved Law School
  4. Copy of Official Transcripts from non-ABA-Approved Law School
  5. Copy of Official Transcripts from ABA-Approved Law School
  6. Copy of Course Descriptions from ABA-Approved Law School

The “ABA-Approved Law School” would be the school where you received or are in the process of obtaining your LL.M. On the other hand, “non-ABA-Approved Law School” is where you received your initial law degree (unless it is an ABA-Approved Law School).

Further, since additional verification is necessary, the NCBE charges a higher amount for the C&F Investigation. For more information, review the NCBE’s fee schedule.

Special Legal Consultant

In general, this type of license allows a foreign-licensed attorney to establish an office in DC to practice their licensed jurisdiction’s law. However, this license does not permit one to practice US law, as defined under DC.CA Rules 46(f)(6) and 49(b).

While the application mechanics are similar to full DC licensure, there are some differences. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the most significant differences:

  1. No MPRE requirement
  2. Proof of ability to practice in your licensed jurisdiction
  3. Evidence of being 26 years or older
  4. Summary of laws and customs to demonstrate how a DC licensed attorney would be able to establish offices and give legal advice to clients in the foreign jurisdiction within which you are licensed to practice
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Costs and Fees

ALL FEES ARE NON-REFUNDABLE AND NON-TRANSFERABLE.

General Application Fees

Application Type Cost*
First-Time Takers
(non-attorneys)
$232 (+ additional NCBE Investigation Fee)
+ Laptop exam software fee (TBD)
Attorneys $232 (+ additional NCBE Investigation Fee)
+ Laptop exam software fee (TBD)
Repeaters $232 + Laptop exam software fee (TBD)

Source: DC Bar Admissions Bar Exam Fees

Motion Application Fees

Applications for Admission Without Examination Cost*
Motion by 3-Year Provision
(non-attorneys)
$418 (+ additional NCBE Investigation Fee)
UBE Score Transfer $418 (+ additional NCBE Investigation Fee)
Special Legal Consultant $418 (+ additional NCBE Investigation Fee)

Source: DC Bar Admissions Motion Application Fees

Please note that under no circumstances will exam applications be accepted if payment is submitted after the final deadline.

Cost-Saving Options

Law school is expensive enough, so it’s imperative that graduating law students and law school graduates explore available resources to minimize costs related to the bar exam. We have compiled a list of financial aid options, including bar study loans and bar exam scholarships, for you to consider:

  1. Bar Study by American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL):
    Students who need additional financial aid to register and prepare for the DC Bar exam can elect to apply for private bar study loans. Bar study loans help you finance expenses such as exam fees, bar application fees, and bar preparation fees. Certified by AUWCL, these loans tend to be capped at $15,000, but this amount can vary depending on the jurisdiction where you will sit for the bar exam. For more information, visit AUWCL’s Bar Study web page.
  2. Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia (HBA-DC):
    Describing itself as “a local voluntary bar association in the District committed to the advancement and progress of Latinos in the legal profession,” HBA-DC awards $5,000 scholarships through its HBA-DC Foundation. Students may use the scholarship to cover tuition, books, and bar exam fees while enrolled and in good standing in their final year pursuing a Juris Doctor at an ABA-approved law school in Washington, DC. For more information, check out the HBA-DC Foundation website.
  3. The American Bar Association (ABA):
    The ABA compiles a list of diversity scholarships for law school students with disabilities at all three levels. If you are a student with a disability and would like to apply for scholarships to assist with your bar exam costs, review and bookmark this valuable resource.

DC Bar Exam FAQs

While DC has had low pass rates in the past decade, pass rates have been rising since its first UBE administration in July 2016. Below are the pass rates for the DC Bar Exam over the past several years:

ExamPass RateTotal Examinees
February 202147.2%665
Oct 202076.6%1,682
Feb 202038.7%811
July 201968.9%1,799
February 201949.0%785
July 201866.9%1,702
February 201847.1%623
July 201771.9%1,112
February 201746.3%496
July 201661.6%684
February 201643.8%324
July 201543.9%296
February 201537.6%271

Source: Committee on Admissions | District of Columbia Courts 

If you fail the exam on your first try, you may retake it. However, you will need to register and pay the application and laptop fees once again. 

DC limits the number of attempts candidates have to earn a passing UBE score. You may only sit for the UBE up to a maximum of four times to become licensed by examination or score transfer in DC. However, if you exceed this amount, you may still be able to become licensed by waiver of experience (e.g., having been licensed and in good standing for at least three years).

Yes, unsuccessful applicants should submit the review request form to the Director within 30 days of the publication of the examination results. Here is a link to the contact information of the DC Bar Examiners: DC Bar Admissions Contact Information.

You can become licensed in DC by achieving an MPRE score of 75 or higher either before or after you sit for the bar exam. Unlike many other jurisdictions, DC does not have a time limit for when a score becomes “stale.” In other words, you could use an MPRE score you achieved more than five years prior to applying for licensure in DC.

By July 2022, there will be 40 jurisdictions that administer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). Because each jurisdiction is ultimately responsible for the policies they enact for attorney licensure, each UBE jurisdiction has agreed to administer the same exam and accept the validity of the other jurisdictions’ UBE scores.

As a result, applicants who’ve sat for the UBE in one jurisdiction can transfer their score from that jurisdiction to other UBE jurisdictions to become licensed in them. However, each jurisdiction sets its own minimum score that an applicant would need to achieve. In other words, you can pass in one UBE jurisdiction but not pass in another UBE jurisdiction.

As long as you get the minimum passing score in your target jurisdiction(s), you can transfer your UBE score to become licensed (subject to other requirements imposed by the target jurisdiction(s), e.g., Character and Fitness). Here’s a table with information about the minimum UBE score for each jurisdiction:

Minimum UBE ScoreJurisdiction(s)
260Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota
264Indiana, Oklahoma
266Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virgin Islands
270Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
272Idaho
273Arizona
276Colorado, Rhode Island
280Alaska

*Note that Pennsylvania has not yet announced what their minimum UBE score will be. Since DC is a UBE jurisdiction and has agreed with all other UBE jurisdictions to accept the UBE scores of each others’ examinees, you can transfer your DC UBE score to become licensed in other UBE jurisdictions. You may also use the UBE score from another UBE jurisdiction to become licensed in DC, provided that you have at least the minimum score for the target jurisdiction. 

If you are transferring from another jurisdiction to DC, your score would have to be at least 266. To transfer a UBE score, you would have to electronically submit a request for UBE score services through your NCBE Account and pay the transfer fee. You would also follow the target jurisdiction’s application process.

You may transfer your UBE score from another jurisdiction to D.C. for bar admission as long as you do so within five years of obtaining a passing score. Other jurisdictions may be the same length of time or shorter.

Here is a table with the maximum score age for each UBE jurisdiction:

Maximum Age of Transferred UBE ScoreJurisdiction(s)
2 yearsNorth Dakota, Rhode Island
2 years/5 years*Iowa, Texas
25 monthsAlabama
3 yearsArkansas, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wyoming
3 years/5 years*Colorado, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont
37 monthsIdaho
40 monthsWashington
4 yearsIllinois
5 yearsAlaska, Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio

*Note that Pennsylvania has not announced what their maximum age of a transferred UBE score will be yet.

The minimum passing UBE score for DC is 266.

No, examinees may not submit a concurrent application for admission by transferred UBE score from another UBE jurisdiction. However, you may apply to transfer your earned UBE score upon achieving a minimum UBE score of 266 in the other jurisdiction. 

Yes, by rule, the District of Columbia has reciprocity with all other UBE jurisdictions. Additionally, DC will grant licensure by waiver for applicants who’ve been licensed and are in good standing in a US jurisdiction for at least three years.

You can also transfer your MBE score in isolation to another jurisdiction through a similar process as transferring the UBE score to some non-UBE jurisdictions (i.e., going to NCBE’s score services to transfer the MBE score to a target jurisdiction).

Virginia, for instance, under application Option 2B, allows applicants to transfer and use an MBE score from a different jurisdiction so that the applicant would only need to sit for the Virginia portion of the exam (while still benefiting from the MBE score they achieved previously). For more information about Virginia’s process, refer to the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners webpage.

The Committee on Admissions typically releases DC Bar Exam results within 9-10 weeks of the exam date. You may check your results by visiting their webpage.

Final Takeaways

  • Law school is expensive, so graduating law students and law school graduates should explore available resources to minimize costs related to the bar exam, including scholarships.
  • Also, make sure you set aside a sufficient amount of time to gather everything you need for the bar application's time-consuming Character and Fitness component.
  • Finally, the DC Bar Exam is challenging year over year; still, we are confident that you can pass with proper preparation and the right prep course.

We hope that this detailed article has given you helpful information to prepare for the DC Bar Exam. No matter how you choose to prepare for it, we wish you the best of luck!

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