Bar Exam Information
Most states administer the bar exam twice a year, the last week of February and the last week of July, with applications due approximately 4 months prior to the exam. Some states have earlier deadlines. Below you will find a link to a list of all the state bar examiners in the country. Please check the state in which you plan to practice for its rules and deadlines.
Most law school graduates take the July exam. Most states do not permit anyone to sit for the bar exam who has not actually graduated from law school.
In addition to registering for the exam, some states (including CA) require you to register as a law student, which, of course, entails an extra fee. Many California law schools urge their students to register as 1Ls because they know their students will practice in California. Since so many of our students do not practice in this state, and since there is no late fee, we wait until your last year to urge you to register. California urges you to register before taking the MPRE.
Because the overwhelming majority of our students take one of New York, California, or the District of Columbia Bar Exams, we provide detailed information on their deadlines and how to register for those bar exams during the 3L year. However, many of our students take the bar exam in other states and below are some resources to help you determine the steps you may need to take. Regardless of jurisdiction, if questions arise as you begin to determine the requirements of your jurisdiction, please don’t hesitate to contact our Director of Academic Success, John Dalton (email@example.com).
In the vast majority of jurisdictions (including New York, California, and D.C.), you only need to have taken and passed the MPRE prior to admission to the bar, not prior to sitting for the bar exam, but a few states, such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, require individuals to have taken AND passed the MPRE before they are even eligible to apply to take the bar exam. You should check the supplemental remarks on time parameters found on this page to confirm the timing for when you need to have taken and passed the MPRE to sit for the bar exam in the jurisdiction where you plan to practice.
The MPRE is administered in November, March, and August of each year. The fee is $150 and you can register here. The MPRE is administered by a third party, Pearson VUE, in their testing centers across the country. Because your testing choices are not guaranteed, and you may be required to travel, the MPRE folks recommend that you schedule your testing appointment and pay the fee as soon as possible so you have the best choice of test locations and times available. Please note that if you plan to apply for testing accommodations for the MPRE, you must apply for and receive those accommodations prior to registering for the MPRE exam itself. The NCBE website provides recommended submission dates for those seeking accommodations for upcoming exams.
This two-hour exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. It is much easier than the regular bar exam.
Most states (including CA and NY) require you to apply for a moral character determination. The California application form itself is quite lengthy and calls for a lot of historical information from you. In California, the processing time can range anywhere from 4 – 10 months because it entails checking references going back many years; so, we recommend that you complete the form over the winter recess (if you plan to sit in July) or soon thereafter. If you delay in filing this application, you run the risk that you may be ineligible to be sworn in next December. New York moral character determinations are done after you take the bar exam.
Many states (including CA) require fingerprints as part of the bar application. California now requires you to submit fingerprints through the live scan system. Historically, you could do this at the Stanford Department of Public Safety, 711 Serra Street, Monday through Friday, by appointment only, but since Covid-19, this option has not been available. You can search for a LiveScan location using their website, and the closest location to Campus is the UPS Store in the Town and Country Shopping Center.
Each bar exam has multiple requirements for applicants seeking testing accommodations, as well as differing standards for how they make their decisions. The American Bar Association has a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction guide to the various requirements and forms that students with accommodations might need as they apply to the bar exam. NOTE: While most jurisdictions set a deadline for students seeking testing accommodations, we urge our students with disabilities to apply weeks before any such deadline, if at all possible, to ensure timely resolution of your request. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to John Dalton (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Holly Parrish (email@example.com) to discuss.
This memo describes those aspects of legal education at Stanford Law School that satisfy Rule 520.18 for admission to the New York State Bar. Rule 520.18 is the “Skills Competency Requirement for Admission,” which is designed to ensure that new attorneys have developed the requisite “skills and values necessary to provide effective, ethical and responsible legal services.” There are multiple means of satisfying the rule.
We expect that all Stanford Law School JD recipients who apply to practice law in New York will be able satisfy the Rule through Pathway 1, which permits a school to fulfill its requirements by developing “a plan identifying and incorporating into its curriculum the skills and professional values that, in the school’s judgment, are required for its graduates’ basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession, as required by the American Bar Association Standards and Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools Standard 302(b), (c) and (d).” The school must “make this plan publicly available on the law school’s website.” The Law School must then certify that each of its graduates who applies for admission to the New York Bar has obtained the requisite skills and professional values.
The Stanford Law School plan has been developed by the Associate Deans for Curriculum in conjunction with the Curriculum Committee, including the Vice Dean, the Associate Dean of Clinical Education and the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. This description makes clear how and why all JD graduates of Stanford who fulfill the Law School’s requirements will have acquired the skills and values sufficient to satisfy the NY State Bar Rule under Pathway 1.
The Skills and Professional Values Stanford Law School Considers Necessary for Its Graduates’ Basic Competence and Ethical Participation in the Legal Profession
Stanford has recently engaged in a comprehensive analysis of the skills and professional values that the Law School believes are required for our graduates’ basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession. In 2017, the Curriculum Committee, in conjunction with the Associate Dean for Curriculum and the Vice Dean, examined the range of required and elective courses offered by the Law School, spoke with faculty, and held focus groups with students to assess and evaluate the core attributes of the curriculum. After this comprehensive review, the Associate Dean for Curriculum, the Vice Dean, and the Curriculum Committee identified a set of seven learning outcomes that all Stanford Law students will fulfill upon graduation. These learning outcomes were debated and approved by the entire faculty. They include:
1. Exhibit knowledge and understanding of key concepts in substantive law, procedural law, and legal thought;
2. Demonstrate facility with legal analysis and reasoning. This may include, but will not necessarily include, a combination of skills such as synthesizing cases, identifying and applying relevant principles, and mastering modes of inquiry (whether scientific, social scientific, or humanistic) that inform and contextualize legal analysis and reasoning;
3. Demonstrate the ability to conduct legal research;
4. Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively in writing;
5. Demonstrate the ability to communicate orally (such as in group or individual presentations, while delivering advice to a client, or in the course of oral advocacy);
6. Display familiarity with the law governing lawyers and exhibit an understanding of a lawyer’s distinctive ethical responsibilities to clients, the legal system, and the broader public;
7. Display other professional skills needed for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession (such as, interviewing; counseling; negotiation; fact development and analysis; trial practice; contract review and drafting; conflict resolution; leadership behaviors, attitudes, and styles; collaboration and teamwork; execution; and cultural competency).
The seven enumerated learning outcomes encapsulate the core skills and professional values that, in Stanford Law School’s judgment, are required for its graduates’ basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession. A listing of the courses that fulfill each of these seven learning outcomes is available here. Through the Law School’s first-year and upper-level requirements, students will attain foundational knowledge in all of these areas and will be able to enhance their skills through advanced courses within the curriculum.
Curricular Requirements Furnishing Professional Skills and Values
Stanford’s first-year curriculum furnishes a comprehensive introduction to legal doctrine and methods of analysis. Students must complete courses in Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, and Torts. In addition, they enroll in a required year-long legal research and writing program that is taught by full-time instructors. In the Fall legal research and writing course, students first learn the fundamental aspects of lawyering, including how to read a case, how to parse statutes, how to locate relevant legal authorities, how to analyze a legal issue, and how to communicate legal analysis logically and concisely in writing. During the Winter and Spring, students build upon this knowledge to further hone their writing and develop oral advocacy skills in the context of a globally oriented problem. When students have transferred to Stanford after completing the first year of law school at another institution, the Registrar and Dean of Admissions individually review each transcript to ensure that each student has fulfilled similar requirements by completing comparable courses elsewhere. Transfer students who have not completed such comparable courses elsewhere must retake the relevant 1L class.
In addition to acquiring foundational skills through the first-year curriculum, Stanford students must fulfill an upper-level ethics requirement and also enhance their research and writing skills through taking a class in which they engage in substantial independent research and complete a paper based upon it.
The school has also in recent years undertaken a thorough review of its curriculum that resulted in a comprehensive plan to expand opportunities for experiential learning, in accord with the ABA accreditation requirement that students complete a specified number of units in experiential courses. There are two mechanisms that students can select to fulfill the experiential learning requirement.
The first, called Pathway A, adopted by the vast majority of students, requires completion of one of the full-quarter clinics. Since 2007, the Law School has offered full-time, quarter-length clinics. During the time students are enrolled in a clinic, it is their only academic responsibility. The ability to focus full-time on their clinic work enables an unusually enriching experience. Students receive 12 credits for their clinic work. Stanford Law School now has 11 full-time clinics, each of which is led by a full-time member of the Stanford Law School faculty, and which, collectively, serve between 80 and 90 percent of JD students. The current clinics include:
the Community Law Clinic;
the Criminal Defense Clinic;
the Criminal Prosecution Clinic;
the Environmental Law Clinic;
the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic;
the International Human Rights Clinic;
the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic;
the Organizations and Transactions Clinic;
the Religious Liberty Clinic;
the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic; and
the Youth and Education Law Project.
The second way to satisfy the experiential learning requirement, designated Pathway B, entails taking eight or more units of coursework that has been approved as fulfilling certain criteria for experiential learning by the Law School’s Curriculum Committee. In assessing whether a class meets these stringent criteria, the Curriculum Committee examines whether it:
provides faculty supervision as well as a classroom instructional component;
furnishes students with multiple opportunities for performance;
integrates doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics;
develops the concepts underlying the professional skills at issue;
furnishes a context for self-evaluation; and, above all,
is primarily experiential in nature.
Students can select from various types of courses in pursuing Pathway B. Several years ago, the Law School implemented a set of policy practica, some of which qualify for experiential learning credit. The practica, generally offered for between 2 and 4 credits each, bring students and faculty together with clients that range from government entities to nonprofit organizations. Our students and faculty collaborate to provide advice and policy research to help clients address policy issues with which they are grappling. Just as the clinics provide the opportunity to work with clients in the context of litigation and transactions, the policy practica offer students an opportunity to engage with clients around policy issues. Recent topics have included “Federal Indian Law: Tribal Code Development Assistance Project,” “Voting Technology,” and “Managing Gentrification.” In these courses, students practice essential lawyering skills. They often interview stakeholders and produce policy memos or some other deliverable at the conclusion of each practicum. We have recently created a policy skills “boot camp” for students to complete prior to taking a policy practicum. This one-unit course introduces students to the tools and techniques of policy analysis.
Simulation courses furnish another option under Pathway B. In those classes, students approach either a litigation or transactional matter through acting in role. In the process, students receive extensive feedback on their performance from both instructors and peers. They also reflect on their own work, identifying areas for additional improvement as well as existing and developing strengths. The Winter and Spring quarters of the first-year required legal writing sequence, focused on global litigation, introduce all Stanford Law students to simulation-based learning and upper level courses permit them to further hone their skills in similar endeavors.
Stanford Law School also offers an exceptional negotiation program, and students can count its offerings toward Pathway B. The basic skills and theory of dispute resolution are offered through the Gould Negotiation and Mediation Program and closely related courses that make up the core Alternative Dispute Resolution curriculum at Stanford. The Negotiation and Mediation Program seminars are always small (no more than 20 students each), to maximize the opportunity for students to exercise their ethical judgment, dispute resolution skills, and personal style. The core courses are taught through simulated problems, so that students can develop their legal and analytical skills, and integrate the appropriate theory into their behavior. All of these courses are taught in small seminars by the sixteen faculty members of the Negotiation and Mediation Teaching Team. More than 270 Stanford Law students mix theory and practice in these seminars annually.
A number of advanced legal writing classes also qualify for experiential learning credit. These allow students to build on the skills they acquired in the context of the first-year legal research and writing curriculum and to hone them in more specialized areas. Among the offerings are included “Advanced Legal Writing: Business Transactions,” “Advanced Legal Writing: Litigation,” and “Advanced Legal Writing for American Practice.”
In sum, Stanford has identified seven learning outcomes that reflect our judgment as to the skills and professional values necessary for our students’ basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession. Students who successfully complete Stanford Law School’s requirements will, in our judgment, obtain these skills and professional values. The courses that Stanford students are required to take for graduation together satisfy Rule 520.18. Each individual student’s transcript will be reviewed to ensure that s(he) has obtained a grade in required classes sufficient to demonstrate mastery, and, if so, will be certified as having fulfilled Pathway 1.
The New York State Board of Law Examiners requires foreign students who obtain an LLM or JSM in the United States to complete:
- 3 quarter units of Introduction to American Law
- 3 quarter units of Professional Responsibility
- 3 quarter units of legal research, writing and analysis
- a minimum of 8 quarter units of subjects tested on New York bar exam
- a minimum of 32 quarter units taken in classroom courses in the law school – if an advanced degree students plans to count units taken outside the law school towards that minimum, they should seek prior approval from the New York Bar
See list of Stanford Law School courses approved by NYBOLE as meeting these requirements.
For students graduating in 2019 or later, those applying for admission to the New York State Bar must satisfy Rule 520.18, the “Skills Competency Requirement for Admission.” This rule is designed to ensure that new attorneys have developed the requisite “skills and values necessary to provide effective, ethical and responsible legal services.” There are various mechanisms for satisfying the rule. Stanford Law School anticipates that advanced degree law students will fulfill the requirement through pathway 5, “practice in another jurisdiction.” Under Pathway 5, Bar applicants can satisfy the requirement by having practiced law full-time for one year or half-time for two years, either in the United States or abroad. This requirement may be fulfilled either before or after completing a degree at Stanford.
LLM and JSM students who are admitted to the active practice of law in jurisdictions outside the United States and are in good standing are able to qualify to take the California Bar Exam without any additional legal education. Students must submit proof of admission to a foreign jurisdiction, and must register with the California State Bar and pay the related fee. Please note: Registration is not the same thing as applying to take the Bar Examination.
LLM and JSM students who have a first degree in law from a foreign country but who are not admitted to practice law in a jurisdiction outside the United States must complete additional requirements:
- LLM and JSM students must complete the “Registration as a Foreign Educated General Applicant” and submit the fee. Please note: Registration is not the same thing as applying to take the Bar Examination.
- LLM and JSM students must provide a Social Security Number or you must request an exemption from this requirement.
- At the same time that you submit “Registration as a Foreign Educated General Applicant,” you must submit your evaluated law degree equivalency report and “Foreign Law Study Evaluation Summary” form, which must be completed by a credential evaluation agency approved by the California State Bar.
Additionally, California has a number of specific course requirements for LLMs and JSMs who want to sit for the bar exam and are not licensed in their home country.
- Minimum of one course in four separate subjects tested on the California Bar Examination
— Those courses must comprise at least 16 quarter units.
— One of the four courses must be Professional Responsibility.
The Office of the Registrar will certify enrollment, degree verification, and moral character certifications for State Bar. Enrollment Certification & Degree Verification for requests other than State Bar certifications must be made through Axess. Students without Axess accounts can order proof of past enrollment or verification of a degree from the Student Services Center.
Please submit the SLS Authorization for the Release of Records for State Bar Exam Form or for other Bar requests, the State Bar Certification Request Form along with detailed instructions for your request. Please contact the Office of the Registrar at (650) 723-0994 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Transcripts are available from the Office of the University Registrar via Axess.
State Bar Links
The National Conference of Bar Examiners publishes a detailed breakdown to bar admission requirements in the various jurisdictions.
California State Bar
Office of Admissions
845 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017-2515
Los Angeles: 213 765.1000
San Francisco: 415 538.2000
New York Bar
State Board of Law Examiners
Building 3 – Corporate Plaza
254 Washington Avenue Extension
Albany, NY 12203-5195