Should I Take Two Bar Exams?
If you’re reading this post, then you are likely thinking about taking two bar exams (or perhaps even more!). While taking one bar exam can certainly seem like a daunting undertaking, taking more than one bar exam might seem all but impossible. In this post we provide some aspects to think about if you’re considering taking more than one bar exam.
Should I Take Two Bar Exams?
1. Likelihood of practice in a second jurisdiction.
If you are certain that you want to practice law in jurisdictions that require separate bar exams, then you likely will just have to take two bar exams (depending on reciprocity options). For students taking the bar exam in a UBE jurisdiction, there may be an opportunity to transfer your score (your UBE score is not good forever) if you want to be licensed in another jurisdiction relatively soon and otherwise meet the scoring requirements. If you are simply considering whether you should take two bar exams in the event you might one day want to practice law elsewhere or want to have a certain credential, then read on.
2. Planning to study for two bar exams.
This factor is not to be taken lightly. Studying for the bar exam can be a grueling process. Studying for two bar exams, well, you get the point. When thinking about whether to take two bar exams, considering how you will study for those two bar exams is key. There are 41 jurisdictions that have adopted, or will soon adopt, the UBE:
- Michigan (Feb 2023)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Pennsylvania (July 2022)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
- U.S. Virgin Islands
Therefore, if you are planning on taking a bar exam in a jurisdiction not listed above, then that means you’ll have to do some additional planning, and likely, some additional studying. For example, California and Florida administer a state-specific bar exam that tests state law on the essay portion of the bar exam. As you prepare for a bar exam that includes a state-specific component, you will need to make sure you have the ability to obtain access to state-specific materials. This would likely be done through a bar exam prep course.
You’ll also have to do some planning as to the logistics of taking two bar exams that fall outside of studying. For example, do you plan to take time off of work for bar exams? Do you have character and fitness applications finished and ready to go? Are you complying with MPRE requirements in both jurisdictions? Essentially, you’ll need to carry out the process you completed for the first jurisdiction twice: two registrations, two different sets of travel arrangements, two different exams. Studying for two bar exams takes stamina, discipline, and yes, determination.
Likewise, even within UBE jurisdictions, a plan is still important. Some states have lower thresholds to pass. If you want to transfer your score to another jurisdiction, your score still needs to be high enough to qualify in whatever jurisdiction where you’re seeking to transfer your score. If your score is not high enough, you may have to retake the UBE in another jurisdiction in order to obtain licensure in that state.
3. Purpose for taking two bar exams.
While this factor may seem like a variation of the first factor, it’s not. Thinking about why you want to take two bar exams is extremely important. Some people take two bar exams to be more marketable. At first blush, this sounds like a totally legitimate reason. But if we dig a bit further, taking two bar exams may not be the best way to establish your marketability. Thoroughly examine the first market and then, and only then, consider whether the second market is appealing enough to get you to take a second bar exam. Think of it this way, if you end up licensed to practice in another state, but you don’t really want to live in that state, is it really worth keeping up with renewing your license, participating in continuing legal education, etc. to remain licensed there?
It’s also important to remember that many states have reciprocity rules that establish that if you practice as an attorney for a certain amount of time, you don’t have to take the bar exam (or you can take just the essay portion of the bar exam). This might be a viable option if you don’t think you’ll be moving any time soon (depending on that state’s reciprocity requirements).
By thoroughly analyzing and weighing the above factors, we believe you will come to a better conclusion as to whether you should take two bar exams!
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