Qualifications for Admission to the Bar
- Become familiar with the dates, policies, and application procedure of the bar exam in the jurisdiction where you wish to practice. Jurisdictions differ on what they require and when.
- Click here for a good source of general information regarding the bar exam/application process. This link includes links to State Bar Examination and Admissions Boards.
- Click here for an online version of the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements. This book, published by the American Bar Association, provides general information on each Bar. Much of the book is in table form -- an easy comparison of rules, regulations, fees and general information.
In addition to a bar examination, there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to the bar in every U.S. jurisdiction. Applicants are encouraged to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction. Addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
New York Bar Admission Requirements
In September 2012, the New York Court of Appeals adopted a 50-hour pro bono service requirement for admission to the New York bar. Applicants who will be admitted to the New York bar after January 1, 2015, must satisfy this requirement.
The 50-hour requirement has too many nuances to summarize. It is important that you read the full text of the rule, the FAQs issued by the New York Court of Appeals, and the affidavit of compliance available here. You and your supervisor should complete the affidavit at the time you complete the service, rather than waiting until you apply to take the bar. Otherwise, you risk that the supervisor will not remember your service or will not be with the organization you assisted when it is time to submit the affidavit. Please contact Associate Dean Rob Kaplan if you have questions.
For admission, the New York bar requires certification of applicant's competence in skills and professional values by completing one of five pathways contained in Rule 520.18; most applicants can be in certified under Pathway 1. As determined by William & Mary Law School, and required by ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools Standard 302(b), (c), and (d), Pathway 1 is met:
- J.D. applicants upon successful completion of the first year Legal Practice Program curriculum and either LAW 115 Professional Responsibility or LAW 117 The Legal Profession.
- LL.M. applicants upon successful completion of LAW 135 Lawyering Skills , LAW 701 Legal Writing and Research, and either LAW 115 Professional Responsibility or LAW 117 The Legal Profession.
Bar Exam Preparatory Resources
- Information published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. This site provides information on bar exam statistics, has the address and phone number of each state Bar Admission Office, and contains MPRE registration information.
- Some bar applications require notarization. Remember the Notary Public is certifying your signature. You MUST sign the document in the presence of the Notary, and you may use any Notary Public to notarize your application.
- A copy of your law school application may be requested by the Bar. Log into your LSAC account to retrieve a copy.
- Certificates of legal education, good standing and/or graduation may be required as attachments to your application. Submit forms or request for certification letters to the Law Office of the Registrar. Please do so in a timely manner (Virginia applicants should see the additional information below.)
- Some Bars require submission of fingerprints. You can go to Campus Police, or any police station, to have this done. Wherever you go, be sure to take two photo ids (driver's license and/or passport, student id, military id).
- Transcripts showing degree conferral are required by some Bars (e.g., New York, California, Texas and Florida). You must request an official transcript and can do so during your final semester of legal education.
Application Process - Helpful Tips and Information
Bar Loan Information
- William & Mary Financial Aid Office: Graduate Student Financial Aid
Virginia Bar Exam Information
- The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners provides information on the bar admission process in Virginia.
- Information on the application forms needed in Virginia is available here.
- The Bar Application requires a Certificate of Legal Studies, obtained by request to the Law Registrar's Office.
- The Law School will automatically send the Graduation Certificate for all Virginia Bar takers to the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, immediately following the Commencement exercises; there is no need to request the Graduation Certificate.
- Summer Bar Exam: The summer bar exam in Virginia typically is held in Roanoke.
- Winter Bar Exam: The winter bar exam in Virginia typically is held in Norfolk.
- Hotels and Lodging in Norfolk (loads best in Internet Explorer)
- Students sometimes have questions about how treatment for mental health issues or chemical or psychological dependency will affect their admission to the bar. The Board of Bar Examiners in Virginia has specifically noted, “The mere fact of treatment for mental health problems or chemical or psychological dependency is not, in itself, a basis on which an applicant is ordinarily denied admission in Virginia, and the Board of Bar Examiners regularly licenses individuals who have demonstrated personal responsibility and maturity in dealing with mental health and chemical or psychological dependency issues. The Board encourages applicants who may benefit from treatment or counseling to seek it.”