What are the Different Types of Bar Exam Requirements?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2019
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The practice of law in most countries around the world is regulated by a bar examination. The bar exam requirements of individual nations and, within nations, states and local jurisdictions, varies widely. Some jurisdictions require that bar examinees hold a law degree from an accredited law school, but not all do. Others require proof of moral standing and personal ethics. Most exams span several days, and nearly every jurisdiction requires that all parts of the exam be taken sequentially. All bar exams also require fees of some sort, but the amount and availability of fee waivers vary.

The practice of law is generally considered a matter of local concern. In most larger countries, like the United States, Canada, and Australia, bar admissions are on a state-by-state basis. In this way, lawyers who practice in a given state or province have proved that they know not just the reigning national law, but also the law of the particular local area. Smaller countries like England, Ireland, and the Philippines have but one national bar exam.


The most common bar exam requirement is that examinees hold a law degree. At one time, law examiners in many jurisdictions required that the law degree be granted by a local law school, but this is rarely the case anymore. The vast majority of jurisdictions require simply that an examinee have completed a law degree from any accredited law school, nationally or internationally. Law schools in most countries are deemed accredited or unaccredited based on the strength of their degree program, the rigor of their coursework, and the caliber of the faculty.

Another of the most common bar exam requirements is a showing of moral character or fitness to practice law. This requirement is almost ubiquitous in the United States. Lawyers commonly deal with sensitive issues, and often are custodians for large sums of client money. Most bar exam applications require certain sworn statements about criminal records and any prior tussles with the law, and bar examiners frequently solicit recommendations and referrals on examinees’ general moral stature. A criminal record or a negative review does not necessarily prohibit admission to practice law, but it is usually a consideration.

One must apply to take the bar exam a certain number of months prior to taking the exam, and must include all bar exam registration materials at once. The bar exam for any given locality or country is usually offered several times a year, usually in one designated location. The specifics of the exam vary, but most tests span several days, and contain various component parts. Most jurisdictions require that all sections be taken at a time, and failure of one part or one day usually requires one to re-sit the entirety of the examination.

Bar exam requirements are usually codified in a state or country’s laws. This does not mean that they are static, however. Bar exam requirements do change with the times, and what is required one year may be altered by the next. The best way to learn of a jurisdiction’s bar exam requirements is to contact that jurisdiction’s bar examination authority.



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