A Brief Guide to the NY Bar
Passing the New York Bar exam is a goal that is at once both admirable and daunting. Not only is the exam itself incredibly challenging, it also presents an uphill task in navigating the sea of eligibility requirements on your own. If you do decide to brave the rough waters, you stand to receive the coveted license to become a practicing lawyer in New York, whilst adding an impressive credential to your profile, serving as proof of your knowledge of American law.
The overwhelming amount of information available online can be unnerving for the best of us, but institutions such as Boston University provide ample resources to students to prepare them for both the form and substance of the bar. In the following post, we have put together a brief guide on the New York bar, with curated insights from an LLM alumna of BU Law.
Setting the Stage: Eligibility Requirements
The New York Bar exam takes place twice a year, once at the end of February and then at the end of July.
To be eligible to take the bar, during your LLM you are required to take a stipulated number of courses on (i) Professional Responsibility, (ii) Legal Research, Writing and Analysis, and (iii) American legal studies, the American legal system or a similar course designed to introduce students to U.S. law, alongside specialized courses in subjects tested by the bar exam. In addition, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and the New York Law Exam (NYLE).
The MPRE is a multiple choice exam, lasting two hours, designed to test students on their knowledge of the “established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct”. In New York, the MPRE takes place in March, August, and November, with a passing score of 85. It is important to note that the MPRE exam results are only valid for four years, therefore if taking the MPRE before the bar, it is crucial to ensure your MPRE results are still valid when you’re taking the bar.
In terms of the NYLE, this exam is a culmination of an online course called the New York Law Course (NYLC), a mandatory requirement for those seeking admission to New York Bar. This exam is conducted on the 12 topics covered during the NYLC courses, relating to the specifics of New York law including Administrative Law, Business Relationships, Civil Practice and Procedure, amongst others. As the New York bar’s website succinctly states, “although the NYLE is an open book exam, it will be a rigorous one. Time will not permit an applicant to research the materials for the answer to every question. Preparation for the NYLE by taking the NYLC and studying the Course Materials will be necessary.”
Lastly, there is a Character & Fitness evaluation, where the examiners assess each candidate’s background. According to BU Law, as part of the Character & Fitness Evaluation, states may ask you about your “educational history and disciplinary actions, employment history, criminal history, financial history, litigation history, mental health and substance abuse, and driving history”. As such, candidates are advised to begin gathering documents such as transcripts and employment records as soon as possible to get a firm foothold on the application process.
Echoing this sentiment, Anmol Sheth, a BU alumna who has recently passed the New York bar exam, mentions, “when you join BU, which will be sometime in September for the Fall Semester, [that] is around the time that the New York bar will expect you to send in your credentials from your law school. So your first step will be to submit your law school credentials from [your country of origin].”