After three years of law school, 3Ls are ready to practice law. However, they must first be admitted to the New York Bar before they are authorized to practice law in our state. Passing the New York Bar exam is one of the requirements for admission to practice in our state.

How Difficult is the New York Bar Exam?

The difficulty of the exam depends on the person. The bar exam is a standard exam given to all examinees. As with any other test, some individuals will find the exam more difficult than other examinees.

In 2020, New York’s bar exam had a 40 percent pass rate. For those taking the exam the first time, 78 percent passed. For those retaking the exam, the pass rate was just 28 percent.

However, substantial preparation for the bar exam can make the exam easier. Many examinees spend weeks or months preparing for the New York Bar Exam. 

There are specialized courses and materials available to help prepare for the bar exam. These courses focus on the materials you need to know to pass the bar exam. Also, talk to friends who have recently taken the bar exam and learn from their experience, including any mistakes they may have made in preparing for the bar exam.

What is the New York Bar Exam?

The bar exam is not like any final exam you completed in law school. The bar examination goes far beyond testing your legal knowledge. It also tests the lawyering skills you need to practice law, including communication, reasoning, and legal analysis. 

In July 2016, New York began using the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) for admission to practice law in New York. The UBE is a multi-part bar exam used in over 30 states. The UBE allows New York attorneys to transfer their scores to other states that utilize the UBE instead of retaking the bar exam if they want to apply for admission to practice law in another state.

The UBE in New York is a two-day exam. On the first day, examinees complete the MEE and the MPT portion of the bar exam. The MBE section of the exam takes up the second day.

Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)

The MEE consists of six 30-minute essay questions. The MEE portion of the bar exam counts for 30 percent of your total score. The subjects tested include numerous areas of law.

In addition to testing an examinee’s knowledge of various legal subjects, the MEE tests an examinee’s ability to identify legal issues, identify relevant information, present a reasoned analysis of the issues, and communicate effectively in writing.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The MPT includes two 90-minute problems that count as 20 percent of the bar exam score. The materials for each problem are presented in a File and a Library. Everything you need to complete each problem is in the File and Library.

Each problem has a detailed memo from a “supervising attorney” describing the assignment. The File has supporting documentation, and the Library contains statutes, cases, rules, and other relevant legal information. Topics that one might find in this section include:

The examinee must be able to identify relevant facts, determine inconsistencies in the information provided in the source documents, and use the resources in the Library to complete a specific lawyering task. Tasks might include preparing a brief, settlement agreement, memorandum, discovery plan, closing argument, letter to a client, statement of facts, and many other tasks that lawyers must complete to practice law.

Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)

The MBE is given on the second day. It consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. Examinees have six hours to complete the MBE.

The MBE covers a variety of legal subjects, including Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Torts, Evidence, Federal Civil Procedure, and Real Property. The MBE counts for 50 percent of the bar exam score.

New York Has Additional Requirements for Admission to the State Bar

In addition to taking and passing the Uniform Bar Exam, you also must complete several other steps to practice law in New York.

Applicants must also:

  • Take the New York Law Course (NYLC), which is an on-demand course available online that covers essential principles of New York law in numerous subjects. The NYLC can be completed up to one year before taking the UBE or may be taken after the UBE.
  • Take the New York Law Exam (NYLE), which is an online 50-item multiple-choice two-hour exam. The exam is an open book exam.
  • Complete 50 hours of pro bono service.
  • Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which measures an examinee’s knowledge of professional conduct for lawyers.
  • Comply with the Skills Competency Requirement 
  • Satisfy the Character and Fitness requirements

In addition to the above, applicants must also submit all required applications, documentation, and fees by specific deadlines. Missing information or deadlines can result in your application for admission to the New York Bar being denied.