Should I Take the Uniform Bar Exam?

Some students who have struggled to pass the Virginia Bar Exam have decided to take the Uniform Bar Exam instead, which includes its own essay component, known as the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE).

One advantage of taking the Uniform Bar Exam is that you can get a portable score. Once you take the UBE, you can transfer that score to any other jurisdiction that administers the UBE and get licensed there, assuming your score meets that jurisdiction’s passing standards, and you otherwise qualify for admission. This makes it extremely simple to transfer to another state, so long as that state also administers the Uniform Bar Exam.

If your goal is ultimately to get licensed in Virginia, taking the UBE is one viable path but because Virginia is not a UBE state, the path to Virginia is not as simple.

How to transfer law license to Virginia from a UBE jurisdiction

If you take the bar exam in any UBE state and get licensed in that state, your options to transfer your law license to Virginia are the same as any other licensed attorney.

  1. If you took the UBE within the last three years and scored a 133 or higher on the MBE portion, you can transfer your MBE score into Virginia and take only the Virginia Essay Exam.
  2. If you are licensed in any state and in good standing, you do not need to transfer your MBE score, and you can sit for the Virginia Essay Exam only.
  3. If you meet the Virginia State Bar’s many requirements, you might be able to attain admission without examination.

The Multistate Essay Exam is Very Different From the Virginia Essay Exam

Here is where most people go wrong. The MEE is a tough exam, but one helpful thing about it is that there is a significant overlap between the MEE and the MBE. In other words, as you study for the MBE portion, you are also preparing yourself for the essays as well. Many MEE essay questions are broad and open, allowing you the latitude to identify and argue legal issues you see in a fact pattern. Often an essay will have multiple correct answers, and exam graders are primarily looking for logical analysis consistent with general principles of law. The MEE focuses heavily on model codes and majority approaches.

None of that is true for the Virginia Essay Exam. The Virginia exam is challenging for everyone, and even more so for people who did not go to law school here. The exam focuses almost entirely on unique distinctions of Virginia law. There is almost no overlap with the MBE, and the exam does not test over model codes or majority approaches. Some questions will test your knowledge of relatively obscure provisions of Virginia state law. On the Virginia exam, you are expected to know the precise Virginia legal rule, provide a correct application of that rule, and reach a firm conclusion. You cannot pass this exam by writing a logical analysis from majority rules or model codes as you can on the MEE. So if you’re taking this exam, you need state-specific study resources to help you memorize the correct legal rules.

Taking the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)

The National Conference of Bar Examiners manages the Uniform Bar Exam. It has three parts 1) the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), 2) the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and 3) the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). It is the same in every jurisdiction that administers it.

Which Bar Prep Course Should I Use for the UBE?

student preparing for the bar exam

Of course, you could use one of the large and famous bar prep companies like BarBri, Kaplan, Themis, or BarMax. These are all good and comprehensive “one-stop shops” for your preparation and are the right choice for many students. Of course, the downside is that they all cost well over $2,000 and might be more than many students really need. There is another successful approach to passing the UBE that works for many students. I’ve seen it work for students fresh out of law school and for students who’ve been in practice for many years. The key is that you are committed to doing interactive practice rather than mindless lecture-watching and that you are self-motivated to monitor your own progress and stick to your study schedule. Many lawyers and law students are perfectly capable of this much less expensive and more flexible self-directed study.

Instead of buying one comprehensive course for over $2,000, consider putting together your own course from some less expensive but still high-quality options. For example, Adaptibar is an excellent course for the MBE. For less than $400, you get a comprehensive system that will help you pass the MBE using highly interactive practice. This interactive strategy is much more useful than mindlessly watching lectures and filling in outlines.

If you use Adaptibar (or any other MBE-only course), you will still need a separate program to help you prepare for the Multistate Essay Exam. Remember, the MEE covers all the MBE subject areas, plus an additional eight subjects not covered on the MEE. We have created LexBar MEE just for this reason. It is designed to prepare you for the Multistate Essay Exam, and it is the perfect companion for an MBE-only course. LexBar MEE is comprehensive, including full outlines of all MEE subjects, interactive quizzes to help you learn the rules, and authentic MEE essay questions and answers licensed from the National Conference of Bar Examiners. If you combine Adaptibar with LexBar MEE, you will save over $1,000 in bar prep costs compared with using one of the big providers.

You may be wondering about the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which is administered as part of the UBE. Most students find that preparing for this is just a matter of doing a few free practice tests. Those are available at no cost from the NCBE website. This portion of the test does not require you to learn any more substantive law. It is merely a test of your ability to put together various documents or memos. If you do five or six of the freely available practice MPTs, you will do fine on this portion of the exam.

Some students will benefit from the larger and more expensive bar prep companies. But students who are disciplined and self-motivated might want to choose a more flexible option and save a lot of money in the process. Only you can decide which strategy is right for you. Either way, I wish you great things on your journey toward licensure.