The bar exam is the culmination of your legal education, the moment many students have been waiting for. With all the energy put into getting into law school, doing well in your classes, looking for work, and preparing for the test itself, you may be unprepared for the stress of simply waiting to hear whether you have passed.
Each state has its own bar examination, and the process and timing for receiving results vary significantly. The following article provides an overview of bar exam results and managing the period between taking the test and learning how well you did.
How Long Does It Take to Get Bar Results?
The number of applicants for admission to the state bar has a big impact on the turnaround time for bar results.
For example, New York generally has the highest number of test-takers in the country, with more than 10,000 people sitting for each bar exam. So if you take the July bar exam, you won't see your results until October. Scheduling a swearing-in ceremony can take another couple of months, meaning nearly a year can pass between sitting for the bar and admission to practice.
On the other hand, only a couple hundred people sit for the Montana bar exam. Results typically come out just a few weeks later, and those who pass the bar can be admitted to practice just a couple of months after the exam.
Are Bar Exam Results Public?
In many states, yes. Most jurisdictions, like Georgia and Kentucky, only publish their pass lists. So if someone knows to look for your name, they'll know you didn't pass if your name isn't listed.
Others, like Illinois and Minnesota, send out results to applicants individually. In Arkansas, your name will appear on the pass list only if you've passed both the bar and the MPRE.
Anyone registered with the State Bar of California can view the state bar exam pass list, but it is not available to the general public.
Other states will publish results without identifying information. For example, Florida publishes a bar exam pass/fail list, but applicants are listed only by their applicant file number.
If you take the Uniform Bar Exam, you'll receive a UBE score report that breaks down your scaled scores on the MBE, MEE, and MPT. This information isn't public. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) only publishes the overall pass rates for each state.
Managing Work While You Wait
Apart from managing your stress while you are awaiting bar exam results, you may also need to manage your employer's expectations. Most legal employers will understand and sympathize with your waiting period, and some employers will even keep you on for a second attempt if you don't pass the bar the first time around. Still, clear communication about your status is important for you and your boss.
Until you have received your bar results and have been admitted to practice, there are many legal services you won't be able to perform. In general, you can't provide legal advice or make a court appearance without admission to practice.
But this doesn't mean you'll be useless or out of a job. You can still assist in the drafting of motions and briefs and do a lot of other work in a law office. And many states will allow unlicensed grads who are awaiting bar results to appear in court as long as they have a licensed attorney supervising them.
What Happens After I Pass the Bar?
Most states hold an admission ceremony where successful applicants are formally admitted to the state bar and take an attorney's oath. New attorneys are sworn in before the state supreme court.
Different jurisdictions have their own versions of the oath for new lawyers, but most require you to swear that you will:
- Uphold the laws of your state and the Constitution
- Abide by your state's rules of professional responsibility
- Faithfully carry out your duties as an attorney
And that's it! Welcome to the practice of law.
To remain in good standing with your state bar, be sure you understand your state's Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements and other licensure rules.
Get Additional Guidance
Even after bar admission, there are a lot of challenges that can arise in your early legal career. Whether you're searching for your first job or considering an alternative legal career, you'll need solid advice. Check back with FindLaw's Law Students section for guidance on these and other topics of interest to new attorneys.