Make sure that you’ve disclosed to the Office of Academic Affairs anything that could be construed as a record in the criminal justice system—including arrests, tickets or convictions. This is important because the question of whether you’ve made all disclosures comes up when you apply to get licensed (in New York, it’s called the “Character and Fitness” application).
Take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) before you graduate.
It is required for admission to the bars of all but four U.S. jurisdictions. It’s important to get this requirement out of the way because passing it is a prerequisite to applying to become admitted as an attorney. This exam can be taken any time after your first year of law school.
Our bar prep program advises that 1L-FT students take the MPRE in their summer while 1L evening students take it during the summer following their 2L year. Not taking it early enough could delay the approval of your application to practice law – e.g., in New York, graduates who pass the bar exam but not the MPRE, are considered “uncertified” and therefore ineligible to apply for admission to practice. There’s another reason why you want to take this as soon as you can.
The MPRE is exclusively a computer-based test and no longer a paper and pencil one, and it is unclear what the impact of this change will have on the test itself and how test-taker experience with the computer-based test will differ from the paper and pencil one.
Make sure you get advice from the Office of Academic Affairs and your faculty advisor on what courses you need to take to prepare for the bar exam.
Gather law-related employment affidavits from legal employers as you leave the employment. For purposes of NY admission, law-related employment is broadly defined as any employment in a law related workplace OR where the work itself involves the law, including work in an internship, law school clinic, work as a teaching or research assistant, or work in a law school department.
Make a list of the states where you plan to take the bar examination and practice law and review the dates for required submissions. Download the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.
Be particularly careful in reviewing requirements in states other than New York. For instance, NJ and CA have different filing dates. There are also states with very early filing dates: Illinois law students in their first year must file a student registration form by January 15 following the start of law studies. Georgia requires that applicants for the July bar exam file a fitness application be filed between December-March prior to the July bar.
During your 3L/4L year, determine where you plan to practice so that you can be sure to meet deadlines and follow the appropriate application process to register for the bar exam in that jurisdiction. Be aware that most states require you file character and fitness papers at the same time as your application to take the exam. New York is an exception, requiring character and fitness after you’ve passed the exam.
Continue to update the law school on any changes to information asked on your admissions application that may become relevant to the character and fitness portion of your bar application (e.g., traffic violations, arrests, etc.).
Continue to gather law-related employment affidavits from legal employers, paid or unpaid, as you leave any employment.
If you receive exam accommodations during law school and would like to apply for accommodations on the bar exam, speak to Pat Kennedy and/or a member of the bar support team early on. You should also review the test accommodations handbook from the NY Board of Law Examiners, or review the process in the jurisdiction in which you intend to apply. You will likely need to undergo renewed testing in order to receive accommodations. The bar examiners are very strict in terms of what they will accept, and who receives exam accommodations.
- In New York, prepare your application for admission to the bar, including the character and fitness portion of the application. https://www.nybarexam.org/Admission/AdmissionMultiDeptPacket.htm (Note: if you are applying for admission to the bar in another state, see that state’s requirements; in many states you will need to complete the character and fitness application when you apply to sit for the bar exam.)
- The application papers may be filed only after you have received notification that you have passed the examination and have been certified by the applicable Department. The application and any further materials in connection therewith required by the Appellate Division and its Committees on Character and Fitness must be filed by you within three years from the date of the letter sent by the New York State Board of Law Examiners notifying you that you have passed the bar examination (see 22 NYCRR 520.12). IMPORTANT: A failure to timely file the application for admission may result in the applicant having to re-sit the bar examination.
- After you’ve passed the bar exam, complete the portion of the admission application that needs to be completed by the applicant and submit to the Registrar’s Office for completion by the law school.
- Though you can’t file your application to be admitted until you’ve passed the bar exam, there are a few things you could do in the months preceding your filing:
- Go through the application questions to see whether there are any questions that may be problematic for your application. By doing that you can spot possible problems and get counseling to address any problems.
- Gather the law related employment affidavits and good moral character affidavits. Employment includes paid as well as unpaid volunteer positions. One of the biggest bottlenecks in the admissions process is getting your employment affidavits. Law-related employment means any employment in a law-related workplace OR where the work itself involves the law. The latter is self-evident but the former isn’t: here are a few examples of law-related employment:
- Law school clinic or externship
- A teaching or research assistant to a law professor
- Working in an office of a law school department—e.g., a work study position at Career Planning at CUNY Law or your work as a receptionist at a law firm.
Note that the affidavits of a current law-related employer (current at the time of bar admission application) have a shelf life of 6 months from the time you file your application. However, staleness is not an issue for affidavits from law-related employers for whom you no longer work. The takeaway: you should start to gather employment affidavits from employers with whom you are no longer employed, right after you’ve taken the bar exam, (or earlier) but affidavits from a current legal employer should be obtained within 6 months or earlier from the time of filing.
To facilitate the process of getting the employment affidavits done, write a short note to the employer and include following information:
- Dates of your employment
- A summary description of the type of work you performed for the employer.
- Your estimate of the frequency of contact you had with the person signing the affidavit. It’s a good idea to give a self-addressed stamped envelope to the person doing the affidavit.