What You Should Know About the 2022 D.C. Bar Exam

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The D.C. Committee on Admission (D.C. Bar Examiners) adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in July 2016. Since then, an increasing number of people have been sitting for the D.C. Bar Exam. This article will provide general and specific information about the D.C. Bar Exam so that you can properly weigh your options and prepare adequately to succeed on test 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 D.C. 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 D.C. 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 a total of six hours to complete the MBE, which consists of two 3-hour sessions (morning and afternoon) testing 100 multiple-choice questions each.

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

February 2022 Registration Filing Period


The filing period for February 2022 is now from November 2 until all of the seats are filled (limit of 450 seats).

February 2022 Registration Filing Period


The February Bar Exam will be held for most examinees at the D.C. Armory located at 2001 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. However, examinees with accommodations will be tested at either of the two following testing centers:

  1. Historic Courthouse, 430 E St. NW, Rm 123, Washington, DC; or
  2. The DC Bar, 901 H St. NW, Washington DC.

You may find more information here: https://admissions.dcappeals.gov/feb-2022-exam-annouce.

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

Examination Dates February 22-23, 2022
(Tuesday & Wednesday)
July 26-27, 2022
(Tuesday & Wednesday)
Examination Location TBD  
TBD

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

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

Re-Take Only: TBD
First Filing Deadline Received between October 24th and
November 18th, 2022
TBD
Exam Dates Feb 22-23, 2022
(Tues & Wedy)
July 26-27, 2022
(Tues & Wed)
Exam Location TBD  
TBD

Exam Fee
First-Time Applicant: $232.00
+ additional NCBE character report fee

Re-Take Only: $232.00
First-Time Applicant: $232.00
+ additional NCBE character report fee

Re-Take Only: TBD
First Filing Deadline Received between Oct 24th and
Nov 18th, 2022
TBD

Source: D.C. Bar Admissions Bar Exam Fees

Note: While the 2022 exam fees are TBD, in 2021, first-time applicant fees were $232.00 + an additional NCBE Investigation fee.

Structure & Subjects

Overall, the UBE assesses examinees’ knowledge and understanding of general legal principles, factual analysis, legal analysis and reasoning, and communication skills in these areas 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 in six 30-minute essays lasting three hours total. The MEE tests on the following subjects, which includes seven subjects that are 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

Out of the 200 questions, 25 questions are considered to be “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 D.C. Bar Licensure Process Unique?

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

D.C.’s rules provide for Admission on Motion, meaning an attorney licensed in other jurisdictions can be admitted into the D.C. bar without taking the D.C. Bar Exam when they 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.

D.C. Bar Application

There are several different ways to become licensed in D.C. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the applications:

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

Generally, there are a few main components of the application process:

D.C. Bar Application Process

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

Mechanically speaking, to apply for D.C. licensure, you would first create an account; then, after registering, you would go to the application webpage and select “Apply” to begin your application. Once you have filled out all forms and uploaded relevant documents, you will pay the registration fee through the D.C. 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 D.C. You may do this either before or after you sit for the D.C. Bar Exam. However, it needs to be satisfied before you are eligible for admission, so a delay in sitting for 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 D.C. components of the applications are not very burdensome. However, many applicants find the C&F Questionnaire to be rather time-consuming.

Character and Fitness

Like other jurisdictions, part of the D.C. licensure process is the application’s Character and Fitness (C&F) component. The C&F component is essentially a background check; an applicant will fill out information ranging from previous addresses to moving violations. That jurisdiction’s bar examiners will then use that information to investigate the applicant.

D.C.’s C&F component has a couple of phases. First, the applicant must complete the C&F Questionnaire along with their bar exam application (or, in the case of attorneys applying for licensure by motion, along with their application). This questionnaire is then sent to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to do the initial investigation and compile a C&F report for each applicant.

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

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

The following is a non-exhaustive list of information that we have noticed generally takes D.C. 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 D.C. 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: D.C. C&F Questionnaire.

D.C. Foreign-Trained Attorney and LL.M Licensure

Unlike most jurisdictions, D.C. permits foreign-trained attorneys to become licensed initially with a D.C. Bar License. However, below are a few other things that you should know about:

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

26 Credits in Bar-Subject-Focused Courses

Firstly, 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 D.C. to practice their licensed jurisdiction’s law. However, this licensure does not permit one to practice US law, as defined under D.C.CA Rules 46(f)(6) and 49(b).

While the application mechanics are similar to full D.C. 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 D.C. 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

Costs and Fees

Applications for the February 2022 exam will be accepted from October 24 through November 18, 2021. Accommodations Requests are being accepted between September 1 through November 18, 2021 (5:00 pm ET). For more on the February 2022 exam fees, visit D.C. Bar Admissions Bar Exam Fees.

General Application Fees

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

Source: D.C. Bar Admissions Bar Exam Fees

Motion Application Fees

Applications for Admission Without Examination Cost*
Motion by 3-Year Provision
(non-attorneys)
$418 (plus NCBE report fee)
UBE Score Transfer $418 (plus NCBE report fee)
Special Legal Consultant $418 (plus NCBE report fee)

Source: D.C. 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; that’s why it’s imperative that graduating law students and law school graduates explore available resources to minimize costs related to the bar exam. From bar study loans to bar exam scholarships, we have compiled a list of financial aid options 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 D.C. Bar exam can elect to apply for private bar study loans. Bar study loans are meant to 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-D.C.):
    Describing itself as “a local voluntary bar association in the District committed to the advancement and progress of Latinos in the legal profession,” HBA-D.C.l awards $5,000 scholarships through its HBA-D.C. 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, D.C. For more information, check out the HBA-D.C. 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, be sure to review and bookmark this valuable resource.

D.C. Bar Exam FAQs

While D.C. 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 D.C. 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.

D.C. has a limit to the number of attempts 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 D.C. However, if you exceed this amount, you may still be able to become licensed by waiver of experience (e.g., having been licensed 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 D.C. Bar Examiners: D.C. Bar Admissions Contact Information.

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

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 jurisdiction that has adopted the UBE has agreed to administer the same exam and accepted the validity of the other jurisdictions’ UBE scores. As a result, applicants who have 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. Provided that you get the minimum passing score in your target jurisdiction(s), you will be able to transfer your UBE score to become licensed (subject to other requirements imposed by the target jurisdiction(s), e.g., Character and Fitness). Here is a table with information about the minimum UBE score for each jurisdiction:
Minimum UBE Score Jurisdiction(s)
260 Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota
264 Indiana, Oklahoma
266 Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virgin Islands
270 Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
272 Idaho
273 Arizona
276 Colorado, Rhode Island
280 Alaska
*Note that Pennsylvania has not announced what their minimum UBE score will be yet. Since D.C. 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 D.C. UBE score to become licensed in other UBE jurisdictions. You may also use the UBE score from another UBE jurisdiction to become licensed in D.C., provided that you have at least the minimum score for the target jurisdiction. If you are transferring from another jurisdiction to D.C., 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 D.C. 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, D.C. will grant licensure by waiver for applicants who have been licensed 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 for 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 benefitting from the MBE score that they achieved previously). For more information about the process for Virginia, you can refer to the application webpage of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (VBBE).
The Committee on Admissions typically releases D.C. 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 time-consuming Character and Fitness component of the bar application.
  • Finally, like all jurisdictions, the D.C. Bar Exam is challenging year over year. Nevertheless, we are confident that you can pass with the proper preparation.

We hope that this detailed article has given you helpful information to prepare you to ace the high-stakes exam. No matter how you choose to prepare for it, we wish you the best of luck with the D.C. Bar Exam!

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