|Although there is no nationwide bar examination, 48 States,
the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico,
and the Virgin Islands require the 6-hour Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
as part of the overall bar examination; the MBE is not required in Louisiana
or Washington. The MBE covers a broad range of issues, and sometimes a
locally prepared State bar examination is given in addition to it. The
3-hour Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) is used as part of the bar
examination in several States. States vary in their use of MBE and MEE
Many States also require Multistate Performance Testing (MPT) to test the practical skills of beginning lawyers. Requirements vary by State, although the test usually is taken at the same time as the bar exam and is a one-time requirement.
The required college and law school education usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Law school applicants must have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for admission. To meet the needs of students who can attend only part time, a number of law schools have night or part-time divisions, which usually require 4 years of study; about 1 in 10 graduates from ABA-approved schools attended part time.
Although there is no recommended “prelaw” major, prospective lawyers should develop proficiency in writing and speaking, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking logically—skills needed to succeed both in law school and in the profession. Regardless of major, a multidisciplinary background is recommended. Courses in English, foreign languages, public speaking, government, philosophy, history, economics, mathematics, and computer science, among others, are useful. Students interested in a particular aspect of law may find related courses helpful. For example, prospective patent lawyers need a strong background in engineering or science, and future tax lawyers must have extensive knowledge of accounting.