There are four steps that you must take to be eligible for the California Bar. Three are through the California Bar: Registering for the Bar, Completing the Moral Character Application, and Applying for the Bar. The fourth is through the National Conference of Bar Examiners: Register for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE).
1. Registering for the California Bar
You must register as a law student if you intend to take the California Bar Exam upon graduation. The Bar strongly suggests you register as a 1L. You must register before you apply to take the Bar. See the Bar website for information:
You must use your registration number on all subsequent applications and correspondence with the Bar. If you are a transfer or visiting student who will be taking the California Bar and you have already registered and used the name of your prior school, you do not need to do anything. You should continue to use the same registration number.
If, beginning in your second year of law school, you would like to participate in Practical Training as a law student, you must register with the California State Bar even if you do not intend to practice law in California upon graduation.
2. Completing the Moral Character Application
Some helpful hints regarding the Application for Determination of Moral Character are:
- You must file an Application for Determination of Moral Character.
- We recommend students who have nothing concerning in their backgrounds submit the Moral Character Application over the winter break of 3L. Students who have something concerning in their background should start earlier and meet with Dean Hirshen. If you have nothing of concern in your background, it generally takes the Bar six to eight months to process Moral Character applications.
- Don’t procrastinate! These forms are available year round at the Bar website: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/. You can not be sworn into practice law until your application has been approved. Please note that while you will not be sworn in without approval, you can sit for the Bar without having Moral Character approved.
- It is expensive! Also, the Bar has been known to raise their fees on January 1st.
- A favorable Moral Character determination is valid for three years, so you should plan to complete the bar exam and be sworn in within that time.
- The California Bar requires applicants in California to submit their fingerprints through the LiveScan computer scanning process. The Bar’s Moral Character Determination Application instructions include Live Scan information.
The Determination of Moral Character is the most extensive step you must complete for the bar. You will need to provide detailed information from as far back as high school. Please allow yourself plenty of time to complete this application.
3. Applying – The Bar Exam Application
Third-year students must file a Bar Exam Application to take the Bar Exam. The application is available online through the Bar website. It opens at midnight the morning of March 1st every year.
After you submit your application, the California Bar will ask the Law School directly for a certification of your degree. Certification by the Registrar involves confirming that you have been awarded the J.D. degree. We can only certify students after all grades are received for their final semester, i.e., in January for the February bar and in June for the July bar. Berkeley Law provides this information directly to the Bar and there is nothing you need to do for this step.
4. Passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
California requires passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) before you can be sworn in to the bar. The MPRE is administered three times a year: March, August, and November. Students are eligible to take the exam during their second or third year. For registration and deadlines go to: http://www.ncbex.org/exams/mpre/registration/
Further Information for Students With Disabilities
Students may request to take the state bar exam with accommodations. This request must be made well in advance of the exam. Contact your state bar for deadlines and requirements. You can contact Student Services for additional advice about this process.
About the Actual California Bar Exam
The California Bar Exam has three parts given over two days: five essay questions, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and one performance test. The California Bar may cover the following topics:
Wills and Succession
*Criminal Law and Procedure
*The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) tests the six subjects marked by an asterisk above. (The majority of states include the MBE as a component of their examination. It consists of a six-hour test comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions.)
Some of the above topics are required courses and some are elective:
- Civil Procedure (required, first year)
- California Marital Property (elective)
- Constitutional Law (required)
- Contracts (required, first year)
- Business Associations (elective)
- Criminal Law (required, first year)
- Criminal Procedure (elective)
- Evidence (elective)
- Professional Responsibility (required)
- Real Property (Property, elective for class of 2023 and beyond)
- Remedies (elective)
- Torts (required, first year)
- Wills and Trusts (we call it Estates and Trusts, elective)
Out-of-State Bar Information
If you are taking the bar in a state other than California, please research the applicable deadlines, complete your application, and submit any Law School Declaration to the Registrar’s Office before you take the bar. Most states have a deadline by which the Registrar must submit this form. Therefore, please submit your form or forms to the Registrar’s Office as early as possible so we have enough time to confirm your degree and meet the deadline. Also be sure to submit any other forms or information your bar will need, e.g. the handwriting sample required by New York (New York Bar).