As people prepare to take the bar exam either in February 2017 or sometime in the future, I wanted to provide a simple breakdown of the new format of the New York Bar Exam, specifically.
The Uniform Bar Exam
As of July 2016, the process for becoming admitted to the New York Bar has changed drastically, both logistically and with respect to the bar exam, itself. The July 2016 administration of the New York Bar Exam was the first time the bar consisted of the Uniform Bar Exam. The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) for New York consists of the following:
- 9:30 – 12:30: 2 Multi-State Performance Tests (3 hours)
- 12:30 – 2:00: Lunch (1.5 hours)
- 2:00 – 5:30: 6 Thirty-Minute Essays (3 hours)
- 9:30 – 12:30: 100 MBE Questions (3 hours)
- 12:30 – 2:00: Lunch (1.5 hours)
- 2:00 – 5:30: 100 MBE Questions (3 hours)
What the UBE Means For You
The UBE is different from New York’s previous administration of the test in that no part of the bar exam consists of New York-specific material. Instead, everything is common law or majority rule law. Depending on the jurisdiction and your score on the UBE, you may be able to transfer your UBE score to other UBE jurisdictions. For example, in order to pass the New York Bar, you must, among other things, receive a UBE score of 266. Therefore, if you seek to transfer your score to another jurisdiction, as long as their requirement is that you must have a 266 or lower to pass, you are able to transfer your score there.
Also, just to clarify (because I had this same question) the MBE, is a component of and is not separate from the UBE, but you do receive 2 separate score for the part (MBE) and the whole (UBE). Therefore, depending on the jurisdiction’s requirements, you may be able to either transfer your UBE score or seek reciprocity with your MBE score.
The New York Law Course & Exam
Although it is pretty sweet that you are not tested on New York-specific law on the bar, New York does require that you complete the New York Law Course and Exam before you can be certified to be sworn in as an attorney.
The New York Law Course (NYLC) consists of about 15 hours of lectures on different subjects of New York law. You must complete the NYLC at least 30 days before the administration of the New York Law Exam (NYLE) as you will not be able to register to take the exam and registration closes 30 days before the administration of the following exam. Each lecture requires that you answer questions periodically (about every 12-20 minutes) to make sure you are actually watching the videos and engaged in the material. The system tracks your amount of completion of each lecture and I think it can tell if you try to fast forward so don’t even bother.
The NYLE is a take-home, open book (yessss!) exam that consists of 50 multiple choice questions. It is administered only 4 times a year so be on the lookout for the dates of administration of the exam. The 2017 dates are as follows:
March 16, 2017, 12:00 pm EDT
June 15, 2017, 12:00 pm EDT
September 14, 2017, 12:00 pm EDT
December 14, 2017, 12:00 pm EST
A Helpful Timeline to be Admitted to the New York Bar
Just to make it a little bit easier for you, below is a timeline you should consider when applying for admission for the bar exam:
Step 1: Get Your 50 Pro Bono Hours
New York requires that you complete 50 pro bono hours in order to be admitted to the New York bar. Once you decide that you will take the New York bar, start thinking of ways to accrue at least 50 hours of free law related work. I interned for a judge during my 2L year, so I took care of this before I even knew I was taking the New York bar or knew about the requirement. Consider interning for a judge or working or public interest organization ASAP.
Step 2: Take and Pass the MPRE
I know some people wait, but I think it is best to get this out of the way so you can be done with it. I took and passed the MPRE while I was taking my Professional Responsibility Course during my 2L year so I didn’t have to revisit the issue later. The required score for the MPRE for New York is 85.
Step 3: Register for the New York Bar ($250)
For February Applicants, the deadline to register is November 30.
For July Applicants, the deadline to register is April 30.
*Keep in mind: New York is different from many other states in that you complete the Character & Fitness component only after you pass the bar. This means you’ve taken the MPRE, bar, NYLC, and NYLE before they even look at your super long application with all your affidavits and background information. I’m saying all this so you don’t keep putting it off, thinking you’re about to sit down for hours trying to think of what you’ve done in your life the last 10 years. It took me maybe 20 minutes or less to register for the bar so if you have the money, do it ASAP!*
Step 4: Decide When You are Going to take the NYLC & NYLE
You can take the NYLC & NYLE up to one year before and any time after you first sit for the bar.
*Remember: You must complete the the New York Law Course and Register for the New York Law Exam 30 days prior to the administration of the NYLE you choose to take!!*
Step 5: Study for the Bar Exam and Kill it!!
I don’t have much to say here about the New York Bar. It may not be the old exam, but it’s still tough. Check out my post on how I passed the bar on the first try here. It took almost exactly 3 months to get my results back sooo yeah. Fun times. *eye roll* I still get goosebumps just thinking about how long it took!
Step 6: If You Haven’t Already, Take the NYLC &NYLE
Don’t be like me. For some reason, I decided to be lazy and didn’t take the NYLC & NYLE in September so I just took the NYLE yesterday (December 15). Once I find out the turn around time to get results, I will update this post.
*Update: I passed the NYLE! Yay! It took less than a week to get my NYLE results. (I took it on Thursday and I got my results the following Tuesday.)
Step 7: Fill Out and Gather All Information for Your Application to the Bar
This is the part where you provide all your Character & Fitness Information. Your Application will be assigned to one of Four Departments of the New York Appellate Division and will not be reviewed until all of the above is completed. Below is a checklist of what you must send along with the application:
- 1 Notarized Affidavit Re: 50 Pro Bono Hours
- 1 Notarized Affidavit Re: Character Reference from Un-related, Non-faculty, Non-Lawyer
- 1 Notarized Affidavit Re: Character Reference from Un-related, Non-faculty, Lawyer
- Notarized Affidavits Re: All Law-Related Employment
- Letter of Certification from the New York Board of Law Examiners: You won’t get this until you have passed the bar, taken and passed the MPRE, and taken and passed the NYLE. The NY Board of Law Examiners will forward the letter to your assigned Department a few days after you are certified
Step 8: Interview & Swearing In
After your department reviews and approves your application, you will receive a notification of when your swearing-in ceremony will take place. They will also interview you usually either the day before or the day of the ceremony. New York does not begin swearing in February takers until June and July takers in January. This happens on a first come, first serve basis. So the faster you get your full application in and are completely certified, the faster you are likely to get sworn in. Until then you are somewhere in limbo waiting until you are sworn in. I know of friends that took the July bar and weren’t sworn in until the following May, almost an entire year later!
Step 9: You’re an Attorney!!! YAY!!
Not much to say here except yeeeessss!!!! I still haven’t made it to this point as I am still waiting to get certified, but I am sure this is going to be a great, great feeling! I will update this post to provide more information once I have gone through this process.
I know this is a long post, but I hope it is helpful and useful to someone. I remember how difficult it was to navigate this entire process when no one had gone through it yet, as the July 2016 NY Bar exam takers were all guinea pigs, so I hope this provides some insight to what you need to do to become an attorney in New York. If there is anything I missed or if you have additional questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment. Check the New York State Board of Law Examiners website for more information about the New York Bar Exam, forms, details on requirements, and more.