You’re a 3L now, and that means you can finally kick back and cruise through your final year of law school, right? Just kidding! Your 3L year is likely to be even busier than the previous two, what with work, student organization activities, legal clinics, and the ongoing chore that is completing your bar admission application.
The bar application requires you to compile a veritable cornucopia of information about yourself, down to the last speeding ticket, so the sooner you track everything down, the better. But, for most of you, there is one additional hurdle for you to overcome before you can become licensed in your state, and that is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, known in common parlance as the MPRE.
Most jurisdictions require bar applicants to successfully pass the MPRE before they can become licensed. (Check here to determine whether your jurisdiction requires the MPRE and what constitutes a passing score for your state.) Administered thrice yearly by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBEX), in March, August, and November, the MPRE is a 125-minute, 60-question test created "to measure the examinee’s knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct." The test questions are drawn from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (a free copy of which can be found here) as well as the Code of Judicial Conduct (which can be viewed here). Some states also require that you complete a certain number of credit hours before any score you earn will be deemed valid, so check with your local board of bar admissions to make sure your score will count.
Students often ask me whether taking a course in Professional Responsibility is required before sitting for the MPRE, and the answer is, technically, no. While the course itself is an ABA requirement, if you’re brave, you can attempt the exam before completing the class. However, I recommend taking the class first, as many MPRE questions require the kind of thoughtful analysis derived from classroom discussion. To get a taste of what you’re in for, check out these sample questions. And you can purchase practice exams directly from NCBEX here.
Though you do not have to pass the MPRE before sitting for your state bar exam, it is not a good idea to procrastinate. When I was taking the MPRE in the summer of 2008, several of my law school friends who had just taken the bar exam stumbled into the testing room looking rather shell-shocked, as they had not realized how exhausted they would be after the bar exam. Instead of going off on a well-deserved post-bar vacation, these folks had spent another week cramming for yet another exam, and they were definitely the worse for wear.
I’m sure you’re thinking that a single-subject test will be a cakewalk compared to the epic nature of the actual bar exam, but don’t make the mistake that my friend did by putting off the test too long. Though he was triumphant on the bar itself, he came up a few points short on the MPRE, which meant he could not be sworn in with the rest of the new attorneys in November. He had to sit for the next administration of the MPRE—which he took far more seriously this time around—and though he did pass on the second attempt, it severely hampered his job search and set him back months.