During law school, a student evolves from educational consumer to legal professional. An important part of this transition is taking ownership of the professional obligations inherent in becoming and remaining a licensed attorney. Ownership includes, among other things,
- researching and understanding the unique licensure requirements of one’s jurisdiction,
- thoroughly reviewing and completing all necessary licensing forms in compliance with any applicable deadlines,
- communicating directly with the board of law (or bar) examiners in one’s jurisdiction to resolve any questions related to bar examination, licensing and continuing legal education (“CLE”) requirements,
- identifying, registering for and participating in appropriate programs to fulfill the CLE requirements in one’s jurisdiction, and
- staying abreast of changing requirements in one’s jurisdiction and responding to those changes as required.
Rules vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and you should carefully review the requirements of the board of bar examiners of the jurisdiction in which you plan to sit for the bar. The American Bar Association and National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) both maintain a directory of bar jurisdictions and information on the various components of the bar exam. The information provided on this page is intended to be used as a resource and not a substitute for the student’s responsibilities as indicated above. Please read the information on this page closely and in its entirety.
The bar admission process will typically involve the following elements:
Satisfactory and timely completion of the bar application.
- Bar application deadlines are listed in the NCBE Bar Admissions Guide. Students are strongly encouraged to identify their jurisdiction’s deadline at the beginning of 3L year. Begin your application early. It can sometimes take weeks or months to gather all of the required documentation. More information about bar forms and other documentation is available below.
- Students who do not have a jurisdiction identified at the beginning of 3L year should talk with your career counselor for help to narrow your list down to a few jurisdictions, so that you can understand the requirements in each and make an informed decision.
Sitting for and earning a passing score on the bar exam. The bar exam will typically be comprised of the MPRE and a two-day exam. It may also include a separate online course and exam. The passing score for each component will vary by jurisdiction.
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) offered separately in March, August and November of each year.
- Students may take the MPRE in advance of the two-day exam. Most will take the MPRE in November or March of their 3L year.
- Students may sit for the MPRE in any state and have their score submitted to the jurisdiction in which they ultimately apply for admission to the bar.
- A two-day exam offered in February and July of each year. Most students will take the July bar exam following graduation in May.
- An online course and exam. Jurisdictions that use the UBE may also require applicants to complete a separate jurisdiction-specific law component such as an on-demand online course and exam. Whether the online course and exam will be required before or after the two-day exam in February or July will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
- The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) offered separately in March, August and November of each year.
- Completing the jurisdiction’s character and fitness process. Each jurisdiction will conduct a character and fitness investigation (background check) on all bar applicants. In some states, the character and fitness investigation takes place during the application process. Other states will conduction the investigation after the applicant sits for and passes the bar exam. Additional information on character and fitness is provided below.
Jurisdictions will require some combination of the following documents and forms. Because the New York Bar requires more documentation than other jurisdictions, NY bar applicants should also visit the New York Bar page after reviewing the information contained here.
- Application for Disability-Related Accommodations. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements and deadlines to request testing accommodations for the bar exam. Such requests should be made well in advance of the deadline to allow sufficient time for review. Please be aware that the process of providing accommodations used by Duke University is not necessarily the same for receiving bar exam accommodations. The ABA maintains a Directory of Bar Information for Applicants with Disabilities. Information about requesting accommodations on the MPRE can be found on the NCBE website.
- Transcript. Transcripts are issued only by the University, not by the Law School. Currently enrolled students, and students who were enrolled within the past academic year, should use DukeHub to submit transcript requests. All other previously enrolled students must follow the instructions provided on the University Registrar’s Transcripts & Verifications page.
Please be mindful of what information your jurisdiction requires on the transcript. If the final set of grades must be posted and/or if your transcript must indicate that your degree has been conferred, please note that 1) the Law School faculty have until June 1 to submit spring semester grades, and 2) the processing, recording and posting of grades and degree to the transcript takes several days after this June 1 deadline. The Law School Registrar’s Office will notify returning and graduating students via email when grades have been posted. DukeHub and the Transcripts & Verifications form permit you to indicate that your transcript request should be processed only after the posting of grades and/or degree. Be sure to check the appropriate boxes on your transcript request form.
- Academic Eligibility Form. Some jurisdictions will require information more detailed than what is provided on the transcript. This may include the number of credits earned in various categories of courses such as ethics, experiential learning, non-law courses, in-classroom vs. non-classroom learning, etc.
- Law School/Dean’s Certification Form, Good Standing or Legal Education Verification Form. Many jurisdictions require a separate form to certify that you attended law school and are in good academic and/or disciplinary standing.
- Fingerprinting. Some jurisdictions require, as part of the character and fitness investigation, that applicants be fingerprinted by a law enforcement agency. Duke Police will do fingerprinting for free, by appointment only. They are located on Central Campus at 502 Oregon Street. Applicants may call Lila Edwards at 919-684-4602 to set an appointment.
- Character and Fitness Form. The character and fitness inquiry may include, but is not limited to, criminal or civil offenses, litigation, driving records, employment terminations, dishonesty/lack of candor, misconduct, academic discipline failure to meet financial obligations, or substance abuse. Many jurisdictions require full disclosure even in cases where a record has been expunged. The inquiry will also include a form to be completed by the Law School investigating whether any disclosures made to the bar were also made during the law school admission process, as well as any misconduct and/or discipline that may have occurred during your enrollment here at Duke. A failure to truthfully, accurately, and completely respond to a character and fitness inquiry is commonly deemed a character and fitness violation in and of itself, and may be more detrimental to bar admission prospects than the undisclosed or incorrectly disclosed underlying conduct. If you have questions about information to be disclosed on your character and fitness form, or need to amend your law school application to include information previously omitted, please contact Dean Hutchison or Dean Hoye.
Bar applicants should submit these forms to Meredith Chilausky in the Law School Registrar’s Office. Before submitting, review the form thoroughly to see if any other documents (such as a transcript) must be attached to the form. If so, please submit these attachments to Ms. Chilausky along with your form. The Law School will not be responsible for providing any attachments that your jurisdiction may require.
Also, please indicate or highlight on the form your jurisdiction’s deadline for receiving the forms. The processing time for bar application forms is 10-14 days for completion and submission. Applicants who submit their forms close to the deadline must keep in mind that the Registrar’s Office could be processing a high volume of forms from current student and recent graduate bar applicants at any given time, and will do their best to meet a close deadline within reason.
You may submit your forms to the Registrar’s Office, attn: Meredith Chilausky, as follows:
- Hard copy forms – bring to Ms. Chilausky's office, Room 2032, or the Registrar’s Office, Room 2027
- Faxed forms – send to the Registrar’s Office at 919-613-7285
- Electronic copy forms – send to Registrar_Office@law.duke.edu.
Notarization. There are several Notaries Public at the Law School. Students may contact one of the individuals below directly to request notary services.
Many large law firms will pay for the bar expenses of incoming associates. Practices vary by firm; if you have accepted an offer with a private law firm, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your firm will pay for, when and how. For example, some firms may reimburse you for covered expenses after the fact; others may pay some expenses directly to the provider. Some may give you a stipend to help cover your living expenses, whereas others may offer you the ability to take out an advance on your salary.
Public interest and government employers usually do not pay for the bar application or a bar exam prep course. PILF awards Bar Grants to help offset the cost of the bar exam for graduating law students who are immediately going to work in qualifying public interest or government jobs. Kaplan Bar Review and BARBRI will provide fee reductions to certain qualified Duke Law students for their respective 2019 bar review courses. This opportunity is made possible through the Office of the Dean’s waiver of the Law School’s customary room rental fees charged to corporate users of Law School facilities. Details will be provided as soon as they become available. Fee reduction eligibility would likely mirror the 2018 policy and process. Also, some private lenders offer bar study loans for the 6- to 12-month period immediately following graduation. The Law School's Financial Aid Office can provide you with resources on loan options.