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Bar Admissions and Registration

Admissions Requirements

Attorneys must be licensed in order to practice law in any state. Every state has different licensing requirements. Almost all require a law student applicant to pass a general bar examination for competence, pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), and establish moral character and fitness for practice. Students may not take a bar exam until they have graduated from law school.

Students who intend to practice law in California should review the detailed requirements for California Bar admissions on the California State Bar website.

  During the First Year

Registration with the State Bar

  • Students intending to take the California bar exam are required to register as a law student. The State Bar advises students to register within 90 days of matriculation in law school, although they may do so up to the start of their third year.
  • The fee is $119, and there is no late fee.
  • Registration with the State Bar is not the same as registering to take the California Bar Exam. Registration with the Bar is required prior to: 1) obtaining certification to practice as a law student (required for many CSOL clinics), 2) submitting the State Bar's application for moral character, or 3) submitting the application to take the bar exam.
  • The State Bar imposes additional registration requirements on foreign students with an F-1 Visa. F-1 Visa holders should carefully review the State Bar's Foreign Education requirements.
  During the Second Year

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

  • Students should plan to take the MPRE, which is offered every spring, summer, and fall. Ideally, students will take and pass the MPRE by their final semester in law school to avoid any delay in being sworn in as an attorney. Register for the MPRE through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
  • Students intending to apply for testing accommodations for the MPRE must do so before registering for the exam. Applications for accommodations should be submitted well in advance of the MPRE test administration, and ideally by the recommended submission date for that administration.
  • The registration fee is $135.

Moral Character Application

  • Students should plan to submit the required moral character application to the State Bar at the end of their second year or beginning of their third year. The moral character application is separate from the bar exam application. The moral character application and investigation process is lengthy, taking a minimum of two weeks for the applicant to complete the application and up to 9-12 months for the State Bar to investigate and approve.
  • Students with situations in their personal history that may slow down the approval of their applications (e.g., a previous DUI charge, academic discipline, nonpayment of child support, a record of financial difficulties, etc.) should apply in their second year, as the investigation process may take longer. Please see an Academic Mastery Program professor in confidence if this advice raises questions for you. 
  • Before applying, students should carefully review the application instructions.
  • Students looking for more information about moral character determinations should review the State Bar's answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).
  • The moral character application fee is $551.

Fingerprinting

  • To complete a moral character application and apply for the California Bar Exam, students must submit their fingerprints through Live Scan.
  • A moral character application must be submitted and received within 90 days of the date of the Live Scan process. Students who do not meet this deadline will be required to complete the fingerprint process again.
  • Fees for Live Scan fingerprinting vary by vendor. Total fees generally range from $54-$124.
  During the Third year

Begin Preparing for the Bar Exam

Apply to Take the Bar Exam

  • Students should apply to take the bar exam. Applications typically become available on March 1 for the July exam and on November 1 for the February exam. Apply as close as possible to the date when the application opens (ideally, the same day) to ensure you are assigned to one of your preferred testing centers.
  • The exam application fee is $677.
  • Students planning to take the exam on a laptop computer must pay an additional feel of $153.

Petition for Accommodations (if applicable)

  • Students in need of testing accommodations should submit a petition for accommodations to the State Bar approximately five to six months before the exam they intend to take to allow time for an appeal in the event the petition is denied. However, petitions filed up to two months before the exam may be granted some type of accommodations depending on the student's circumstances as described in the petition.
  • Students applying for accommodations should plan to consult with an Academic Mastery Program professor toward the beginning of the petition process when they are gathering documents and information to obtain general tips and advice to help them avoid potential obstacles and common issues. Jennifer Baker in Pepperdine's Office of Student Accessibility is also available to answer your questions about the part of the petition form that the Office of Student Accessibility is required to complete.

 

Taking the Bar Exam in Other States

Students planning to practice in states other than California should consult the individual admissions requirements in those states. A list of state admissions offices, dates and deadlines is available in an online guide, published by the National Committee of Bar Examiners. To be safe, also check the rules and updated dates and deadlines on the bar examiners' website for your chosen state and at this link.