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Guidelines on Reciprocity or "Admission on Motion" among the States as per American Bar Association

published November 25, 2011

Nikki LaCrosse
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When one bar admits a lawyer based mainly on his/her membership in another bar, this is reciprocity or “admission on motion.” It is not a standardized process. While the American Bar Association (ABA) promotes guidelines it believes each jurisdiction should follow in accepting outside lawyers, each state is free to accept or disregard those suggestions and make its own rules.

 
Reciprocity-Laws-Among-the-States

See the following articles for more information about the bar exam:
   

Of the 50 states and five territories listed on the chart "Reciprocity, Comity & Attorneys Exam" in the ABA's Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2015, 25 states participate in a form of reciprocity. Eight states and/or regions will allow attorneys to take the Attorneys Exam, which is only the written part of the bar exam, and still others require passing scores on specific standardized exams.

While many states do participate in reciprocity, most still require that the applying lawyer have some experience in practicing law. Requirements range from one year of work as a licensed counselor up to seven years of experience before an applicant can apply to the bar. All jurisdictions that participate in reciprocity require that incoming lawyers be in good standing with their current bar associations.


Standardized tests offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) are often components of an application to a state bar.

The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) are the most commonly used tests for bar entrance, and some states require an applicant to pass one or more of these exams despite, or in lieu of, having reciprocity from his/her home state. The MBE and MPRE are the most common exams used, with only three or four jurisdictions opting to use other exams.

See A Comprehensive Guide to Bar Reciprocity: What States Have Reciprocity for Lawyers and Allow You to Waive into the Bar for more information.

Since 2011, states have had the option to administer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). The UBE is an effort among certain states to standardize the bar admission process and make it easier for test-takers to transfer their legal education across state lines by applying for admission to multiple UBE states at one time.  The UBE consists of the MBE, MEE and MPT.

The following states administer the UBE:  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.  Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico and New York have adopted the UBE and will begin administering it in 2016.

The MPRE tests professional responsibility. The MBE tests knowledge on seven core legal subjects (Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Federal Civil Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts). The MPT tests a person's ability to follow instructions and practical lawyer skills. The MEE tests a person's ability to write essays in IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, and conclusion) fashion, the logical thinking process of a lawyer.

Many law students take the MPRE during their last year of law school. Many bar exam providers provide a free MPRE class to get people familiar with their bar prep offerings. Though many law students find the MPRE easy to pass, and many get high scores in the 90 percent range, they find it difficult to score high on the MBE. The MBE uses the same multiple-choice format as the MPRE.

The MBE, along many other parts of the bar exam, is administered twice per year. The MBE is given on the last Wednesday of February and July. Those who get special accommodation may take the MBE on a Saturday or Sunday after the bar exam ends for most applicants, because the bar examiners want those getting special accommodations to do the essays at the same time the other applicants take the essay portion of the bar exam so they do not find out about the tested subjects early.

Unlike other portions of the bar exam, the MBE is a full-day, six-hour exam for the normal applicant without accommodations, made up of 200 questions, 190 of which are scored. It usually consists of two three-hour sessions, one in the morning between 9 am and 12 pm, and one in the afternoon, between 1 pm and 4 pm. Usually a person who scores below 100 on the MBE is likely to fail the bar exam, no matter how well the person does on the essay and performance test questions. The MBE covers six subjects: Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. The National Conference of Bar Examiners recently sent a letter to law school deans announcing that Civil Procedure will be added as a subject in February 2015 to the current list of six subjects just mentioned. Most law school students have found Civil Procedure to be a challenging subject. Adding a section to the MBE in an area students wish they could forget after the first year of law school will turn the MBE into a more difficult test overall. The questions on the MBE are not divided by subject, but interspersed throughout the exam. A person who scores below 100 on the MBE might need to retake the bar exam three times because the person is likely lacking in legal foundation on basic law school courses usually taught during the first two years of law school. The MBE is considered the most difficult part of the bar exam for many because of the complexity of the questions and the timing of the exam. Depending on the jurisdiction, the MBE may make up 50% or more of an examinee’s total bar exam score.

A handful of jurisdictions offer reciprocity only to other, specific jurisdictions. For example, Vermont limits reciprocity to attorneys from Maine and New Hampshire after three years of practice. Oregon allows reciprocity between Washington, Idaho, Utah or Alaska based on active, continuous practice of law for three out of the last five years on or before December 31, 2015. For other states, Oregon requires lawyers engage in practice for between five to seven years prior to applying for application. A complete chart of states participating in reciprocity is located on the ABA's website and the relevant charts are also listed below for your convenience.

 

Reciprocity, Comity, and Attorneys’ Exams

 
State or Jurisdiction  Is admission based on reciprocity (that is, is it limited to candidates from some or all jurisdictions offering admission on motion)? If state of initial admission requires examination of all applicants, do you require examination of attorney applicants? Is an attorney initially admitted by diploma privilege eligible for admission on motion? Does your jurisdiction offer an Attorneys Exam? Attorneys' Exam

 

To qualify for Attorneys Exam, must an applicant be a graduate of an ABA-approved school?
  Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No
Alabama X     X   X   X    
Alaska X   X     X   X    
Arizona X         X   X    
Arkansas X     X X     X    
California             X     X
Colorado X   X   X     X    
Connecticut X   X   X     X    
Delaware               X    
Dist. of Columbia   X   X X     X    
Florida               X    
Georgia X     X   X X   X  
Hawaii               X    
Idaho X     X   X X   X  
Illinois   X   X X     X    
Indiana   X   X X     X    
Iowa   X   X X     X    
Kansas X   X     X   X    
Kentucky X   X   X     X    
Louisiana               X    
Maine X   X   X   X     X
Maryland             X     X
Massachusetts   X   X X     X    
Michigan   X   X X     X    
Minnesota   X   X X     X    
Mississippi X   X   X     X    
Missouri X     X X     X    
Montana               X    
Nebraska   X   X X     X    
Nevada               X    
New Hampshire X   X     X   X    
New Jersey               X    
New Meico X     X X     X    
New York X     X X     X    
North Carolina X   X   X     X    
North Dakota   X   X X     X    
Ohio   X   X   X   X    
Oklahoma X   X   X     X    
Oregon X     X   X   X    
Pennsylvania X     X X     X    
Rhode Island             X     X
South Carolina               X    
South Dakota X   X   X     X    
Tennessee   X   X X     X    
Texas   X   X X     X    
Utah X   X     X   X X  
Vermont   X   X X     X    
Virginia X   X   X     X    
Washington   X   X X     X    
West Virginia X   X   X     X    
Wisconsin   X   X X     X    
Wyoming X   X     X   X    
Guam             X   X  
Northern Mariana Islands             X   X  
Palau               X    
Puerto Rico               X    
Virgin Islands               X    
 

Other Licenses and Registrations/Fees

(Foreign Legal Consultants and Corporate Counsel Not Admitted In-State)

 
Jurisdiction Does your jurisdiction license, register, or certify the following on a special basis (that is, other than via the regular examination or motion process)?
Foreign legal consultants Corporate counsel

 

not admitted in-state
Yes No Application Fee Yes No Application Fee
Alabama   X   X   $725
Alaska X   $1,000   X  
Arizona X   $825 X   $345
Arkansas   X     X  
California X   $1099 X   $1,334
Colorado X   $1,000 X   $1,000
Connecticut X   $500 X   $1,000
Delaware X   $100 X   $80
Dist. of Columbia X   $450   X  
Florida X   $750 X   $1,600
Georgia X   $1,000   X  
Hawaii X   $500   X  
Idaho X   $690 X   $800
Illinois X   $800 X   $1,250
Indiana X   $875   X  
Iowa X   $500 X   $700
Kansas   X   X   $1,250
Kentucky   X   X   $1,500
Louisiana X   $175 X   $300
Maine   X     X  
Maryland   X   X    
Massachusetts X   $510 X   $220-$300
Michigan X   $600   X  
Minnesota X   $1,200 X   $700-$950
Mississippi   X     X  
Missouri X   $1,400   X $1,240
Montana   X     X  
Nebraska   X   X   $700
Nevada   X   X   $250
New Hampshire X   $1,200   X  
New Jersey X   $575 X   $750
New Meico X   $800   X  
New York X   $0 X   $0
North Carolina X   $1,500   X  
North Dakota X   $380 X   $380
Ohio X   $550 X    
Oklahoma   X   X   $750
Oregon X   $1,050 X   $1,050
Pennsylvania X   $650 X   $1,250
Rhode Island   X   X   $200
South Carolina X   $1,000 X   $400
South Dakota   X     X  
Tennessee   X   X   $750
Texas X   $990   X  
Utah X   $850 X   $850
Vermont   X     X  
Virginia X   $600 X   $150
Washington X   $620 X   $620
West Virginia   X     X  
Wisconsin   X   X   $250
Wyoming   X     X  
Guam   X     X  
Northern Mariana Islands   X     X  
Palau   X     X  
Puerto Rico   X     X  
Virgin Islands   X     X  
 

Other Licenses and Registrations/Fees

(Legal Service Lawyers and Pro Bono Lawyers)

 
Jurisdiction Does your jurisdiction license, register, or certify the following on a special basis (that is, other than via the regular examination or motion process)?
Legal service lawyers Pro bono lawyers
Yes No Application Fee Yes No Application Fee
Alabama   X     X  
Alaska X   $0   X  
Arizona X   $0 X   $0
Arkansas   X     X  
California X   $1,399   X  
Colorado   X   X   $50
Connecticut   X     X  
Delaware X   $90-$150   X  
Dist. of Columbia   X     X  
Florida X   $1600-$3000   X  
Georgia   X     X  
Hawaii X   $500   X  
Idaho   X     X $0
Illinois X   $100   X  
Indiana   X     X  
Iowa   X     X  
Kansas   X     X  
Kentucky X   $100 X   $100
Louisiana   X     X  
Maine X X     X  
Maryland X   $10   X  
Massachusetts         X  
Michigan   X     X  
Minnesota X   $75   X  
Mississippi   X     X  
Missouri   X     X  
Montana   X     X  
Nebraska   X     X  
Nevada X   $250 X   $250
New Hampshire   X     X  
New Jersey X   $0 X   $0
New Meico X   $125   X  
New York X   $0   X  
North Carolina   X     X  
North Dakota X   $380   X  
Ohio X   $300   X  
Oklahoma   X     X  
Oregon   X   X   $425
Pennsylvania X   $200   X  
Rhode Island X   $200   X  
South Carolina X   $0 X   $0
South Dakota X       X  
Tennessee   X     X  
Texas   X     X  
Utah   X     X  
Vermont   X     X  
Virginia   X     X  
Washington   X   X   $0
West Virginia X   $0   X  
Wisconsin   X     X  
Wyoming   X     X  
Guam   X     X  
Northern Mariana Islands X   $200   X  
Palau X       X  
Puerto Rico   X     X  
Virgin Islands   X     X  
 

See A Comprehensive Guide to Bar Reciprocity: What States Have Reciprocity for Lawyers and Allow You to Waive into the Bar for more information.

Four jurisdictions require an applicant be a graduate of an ABA-approved school and four do not. In Maine, if an applicant is not a graduate of such a school, the applicant must be actively engaged in the practice of law for three years within the U.S. jurisdiction where seeking application. In Maryland, if the applicant has practiced law for five out of the last 10 years and receives admission by examination in another jurisdiction, then the applicant is eligible for a special attorney exam. Rhode Island requires active full-time practice for five of the ten prior years before permission to sit for the Attorney's Exam will be granted.

Attorneys should keep in mind that when they join a new state jurisdiction, they are subject to additional mandatory continuing legal education. For instance, in California, attorneys are required to have 25 hours of continuing legal education every three years. Attorneys have gotten their licenses suspended or disbarred for failing to comply with continuing legal education requirements.

One way that lawyers can avoid joining the bar in another state is to receive a designation of pro hac vice, which is when a lawyer not licensed in a state receives permission to practice law there, usually for a specific case or client. Again, the requirements for the waiver differ greatly from state to state, but they normally require that the lawyer have several years of recent experience in the state where he/she is licensed. Registration with the courts is required, as is a fee to cover the subsequent investigation into the personal character, legal standing and educational background of the applicant. A signed declaration to follow the laws of that state is also standard. Some states require that a licensed member of the bar act as co-counsel, while others only require the name of a local attorney assisting the visiting lawyer. While appearing pro hac vice is significantly less rigorous than passing the bar, it is an involved process.

Corporate attorneys may also be able to avoid the maze of reciprocity regulations provided that their practices are limited to work directly concerning their employers and that they do not have any other clients. These lawyers are "in-house" corporate attorneys. Again, each state has its own rules and regulations regarding the practice of law under these conditions, but they tend to be less rigorous than those concerning reciprocity are.

According to Becky Sutton of the Indiana Board of Law Examiners, who coordinates all the applications for “foreign attorneys” seeking to practice law in Indiana, most lawyers “will do anything to avoid taking the bar exam.” Although there are many criteria for an Indiana law license, Sutton states, “I don't think it is any more than they [lawyers] expect. Even if it is handled differently in other states, they would still have to go through a process.” In her state, even those counselors meeting all of the requirements to practice in Indiana must re-register their Foreign Licenses for five consecutive years before they are issued a license.

The state does have a Business Counsel License that has less-stringent requirements, but in-house lawyers cannot use their time in Indiana towards fulfilling the five-year foreign-license requirement that leads to bar acceptance. Sutton warns, “They could practice [here] for 20 years, and they'll still have to apply for a Foreign License.”

In-house lawyers are plentiful enough in the U.S. that there are publications devoted just to them. Lawyers Weekly, Inc. publishes three regional versions of In-House magazine across the country and reaches approximately 25,000 lawyers in 10,000 companies. In a column for New England In-House, Andrew D'Amico, General Counsel and Vice-President of Brookstone, Inc., notes, “The fact that a company lawyer is both the participant and an observer of the corporate activities supported makes this brand of lawyering unique.” He also comments, “This lawyer has to provide legal advice while assisting in the conduct of a business.”

Law schools are beefing up their training for students to become in-house counsel with clinics and internships. For example, UC Irvine School of Law is in the process of hiring a person to head an in-house training program, and Stanford University has asked in-house counsel to speak to students about what it is like to work at a corporation.

Law students or attorneys from other countries can apply to U.S. bar associations in 33 of the 55 states and territories governed by the ABA. Each of those jurisdictions has specific requirements for foreign applicants to meet, some of which include training in English common law, additional education at an ABA-approved school and admission to the bar of another U.S. bar association.

However, a person who is educated at a law school outside of the U.S. and does not pass a bar exam in the U.S. may not work as an in-house lawyer. If that person works in law, the person may have to be referred to as an administrator, such as VP of Administration, or use a title that does not recognize the person as being an attorney. For instance, the person can work in tax or compliance as an officer or head, but not be designated as a “General Counsel.”

Additionally, there are a few other international reciprocity issues worth mentioning. First, the Lebanese Labor Law of 1962 prohibits employers hiring foreign lawyers except where the foreigner's country allows employers to hire Lebanese nationals. Due to Palestine not being a sovereign state, reciprocity does not include Palestinian participation. Furthermore, the ABA has requested President Barack Obama's assistance to pressure the Indian government to drop its ban on foreign lawyers practicing law in India. The ABA says the principle of India's ban does not promote President Obama's goal of increasing trade options between the two countries.

Lawyers seeking to explore reciprocity are advised to stay informed about each state's requirements, regulations, education and exams prior to exercising reciprocity. If a person does not follow a state’s requirements for practicing law, the person may get into trouble for unauthorized practice of law. Those attorneys who are admitted to a state bar who help a person who is not complying with these regulations may also get into trouble for assisting in the unauthorized practice of law.
 

Frequently Asked Questions
 

What Is Bar Reciprocity?


The bar exam may not have to be taken again if you pass the bar in one jurisdiction and wish to practice law in another. Bar reciprocity is offered in many states. It is possible to be admitted on motion (also known as "waiving") into your new jurisdiction if you have already passed the bar and have practiced law for a specified period of time. To be admitted on motion, you are simply required to submit an application to be admitted to the bar of the jurisdiction you intend to practice in, which often entails proving you have high moral character, taking the MPRE, or other requirements. Once you are approved for a license in your new state, you will be able to begin practicing.

A comprehensive guide to bar admissions is provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which is updated annually. The reciprocity rules of several jurisdictions may change over time. If you are moving from one state to another, make sure to review the reciprocity rules of the new state's bar before proceeding.

Having passed one bar, you may feel confident studying on your own if you have to retake the bar in your new state.

The term "Bar reciprocity" includes several types of admissions on motion under the umbrella of bar reciprocity. A bar reciprocity agreement and an admission on motion agreement are both practices whereby attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions may be admitted to practice in that jurisdiction without having to be admitted through the bar. Generally, bar reciprocity requirements fall into one of the following categories:
 
  • No Admission on Motion allowed
  • Admission on Motion allowed based on Criteria (attorneys from any state may be admitted)
  • Admission on Motion based on Reciprocity (Attorneys may be admitted if attorneys from the admitting jurisdiction can be admitted to the transferring jurisdiction under similar rules.)
  • Semi-Pure Reciprocity (Attorneys may be admitted if attorneys from the admitting jurisdiction can be admitted to the transferring jurisdiction under similar rules, but applicants are subject to the more stringent rules, requirements, and fees of the transferring jurisdiction if applicable.)
  • Pure Reciprocity (Attorneys may be admitted based on the rules of the transferring jurisdiction.)

 

Which States Have Bar Reciprocity?


When looking for lawyers for a firm, recruiters explore every option. Your search for a home will have an edge if you search out of state. You will have more choices for finances, lifestyle, and a variety of intangibles.  The bar may not need to be taken again in several states where you may be able to practice law.

State bar admission processes vary widely.  The Uniform Bar Exam gives lawyers the ability to practice in multiple states upon passing the exam.
 
  • Alabama Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Alaska Reciprocity- Reciprocal agreements exist between Alaska and the following states: CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, and WY.
  • Arizona Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Arkansas Reciprocity- In October 2004, the motion-based admission process was implemented. Applicants admitted by motion must be admitted to the bar in at least one other state, possess a law degree, and practice law in the state where they are admitted as an attorney for at least 5 years.
  • California Reciprocity- Although California does not offer reciprocity, it offers a shorter bar exam for attorneys admitted in other states and who have been in good standing as attorneys in those states for at least four years before their application.
  • Colorado Reciprocity- Colorado reciprocity agreements are only available to residents of states or territories which have reciprocity agreements. These states and territories include: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, USVI, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Connecticut Reciprocity- Attorneys from other states who reciprocate for Connecticut lawyers will be provisionally admitted to Connecticut. Those states and territories include the following: AL, AK, AR, CO, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, USVI, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Delaware Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Florida Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Georgia Reciprocity- The state of Georgia offers a shorter bar exam for lawyers who have already been admitted by examination and have been in good standing in another state for at least a year before taking the Georgia bar exam. Attorneys with a minimum of five years' experience in reciprocal states are eligible to apply without examination.
  • Hawaii Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Idaho Reciprocity- Reciprocity with Idaho is available only to law firms licensed in Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. If, however, a lawyer has practiced law within the last seven years immediately preceding their application for admission, they are not required to take and pass the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). The remaining portions of the Idaho bar examination must be passed by those lawyers.
  • Illinois Reciprocity- Illinois has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, GU, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NMI, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, USVI, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Indiana Reciprocity- There is no formal reciprocity in this state. If an applicant has practiced law in another state for five or more of the past seven years before applying for admission to the Indiana bar, it will provisionally admit them.
  • Iowa Reciprocity- The Iowa bar examination is not required if you have practiced law for five out of the last seven years before applying for admission to practice law in Iowa.
  • Kansas Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Kentucky Reciprocity- Kentucky has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IA, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Louisiana Reciprocity- The state does not have formal reciprocity agreements, but certain lawyers may be provisionally admitted.
  • Maine Reciprocity- The reciprocity agreements were unveiled in 2005, allowing Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire attorneys to take each other's bar exams without taking the exam for their home state. A shorter exam is available for lawyers with at least three years of experience in another state before application. The Maine Bar Exam is expected to be shorter if you pass the Maine Bar Exam within 61 months after the present administration.
  • Maryland Reciprocity- Maryland does not have formal reciprocity agreements with any other state, but it offers a shorter bar exam for lawyers in good standing in another state for at least five of the last 10 years before applying for admission.
  • Massachusetts Reciprocity- To be admitted to practice in Massachusetts, you must have been admitted to practice in another state for at least five years before your application and have good standing in the previous state. It is required that you be a graduate of a law school that was approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) at the time of graduation or authorized by state statute to grant the bachelor of laws degree or Juris Doctor degree.
  • Michigan Reciprocity- Michigan law school admissions do not require that you pass the bar exam if you have practiced law for three out of the last five years before applying.
  • Minnesota Reciprocity- You can be admitted to practice in Minnesota without taking and passing the Minnesota bar exam if you have practiced law for five of the last seven years. Other lawyers can apply for admission based on a minimum passing score on the MBE if they pass the test in another jurisdiction within two years of applying.
  • Mississippi Reciprocity- There are a few states that allow Mississippi lawyers to reciprocate with their state. After taking and passing an attorney's examination, lawyers from other states with at least five years' experience may be admitted.
  • Missouri Reciprocity- Missouri reciprocity agreements must exist in the states you are coming from.
  • Montana Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Nebraska Reciprocity- A graduate of an ABA-accredited law school and a member of the MPRE can apply for admission without a bar examination. A lawyer who has graduated from a law school accredited by the ABA and has actively and substantially practiced law for five or more years is exempt from taking and passing the written bar exam.
  • Nevada Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • New Hampshire Reciprocity- The reciprocity agreements were unveiled in 2005, allowing Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire attorneys to take each other's bar exams without taking the exam for their home state.
  • New Jersey Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • New Mexico Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • New York Reciprocity- New York has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • North Carolina Reciprocity- North Carolina has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • North Dakota Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • Ohio Reciprocity- No reciprocity agreement exists between Ohio and other states. Provisional admission will be granted if the applicant has passed a bar exam and has been admitted to a court of higher authority in another state or the District of Columbia. Before the date of application, they must have practiced law for five years. To maintain their license to practice in Ohio, applicants must demonstrate they will practice law continuously.
  • Oklahoma Reciprocity- Oklahoma has formal reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Oregon Reciprocity- Oregon has formal reciprocity agreements with AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Pennsylvania Reciprocity- This state has reciprocity with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Rhode Island Reciprocity- Rhode Island will provisionally admit anyone who has practiced or taught law in the United States for at least five out of the last ten years before the date of application. The Rhode Island bar exam includes an essay portion that a candidate must pass.
  • South Carolina Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
  • South Dakota Reciprocity- South Dakota has been operating under a reciprocity agreement since 2004. A minimum of five years of experience in a prescribed area is required.
  • Tennessee Reciprocity- The state will provisionally admit you if you meet the educational requirements for the Tennessee bar exam and have actively practiced law for at least five years before you apply for admission.
  • Texas Reciprocity- In Texas, certain lawyers may be admitted without an examination and after passing the full student examination.
  • Utah Reciprocity- Utah has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, and WY.
  • Vermont Reciprocity- The reciprocity agreements were unveiled in 2005, allowing Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire attorneys to take each other's bar exams without taking the exam for their home state. A person who has practiced in another jurisdiction must have held an active license in at least one US jurisdiction for five years of the past 10 years, without having been suspended in that jurisdiction. They can be admitted without examination if they meet those requirements.
  • Virginia Reciprocity- In reciprocity with other states, Virginia will accept lawyers from those states.
  • Washington Reciprocity- Washington has reciprocity with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, and WY.
  • Washington D.C. Reciprocity- If you are already admitted in another jurisdiction for five years before applying, you do not need to take the bar. An applicant who has graduated from an accredited law school and has achieved certain minimum MBE and MPRE scores may be admitted without taking the bar.
  • West Virginia Reciprocity- West Virginia has reciprocity with CO, CT, DC, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NY, NC, ND, OK, PA, TX, VT, VA, WA, and WI.
  • Wisconsin Reciprocity- A Wisconsin lawyer who reciprocates for another state's lawyer will be eligible to withdraw provisionally.
  • Wyoming Reciprocity- Wyoming will provisionally admit lawyers from other states who reciprocate for Wyoming lawyers.

 

Which State Has The Hardest Bar Exam?


Law students probably want to know which states have the toughest bar exams.  The answer is unfortunately not simple.  You can see which state has the lowest pass rate (California), but that does not really say much.  If candidates prepare well, their states' tests can be incredibly difficult, but this will not reflect in their pass rates.  Or maybe the exams themselves are not too egregious, but the students taking them lack the necessary education.  On the Internet, you can find many different opinions about which bar exams are the hardest.  Good luck reaching a consensus on the next step although one state seems to show up more frequently than the others.

If you are considering a particular state, it is vital not to let low pass rates discourage you.  Examine the kind of materials on the test, the format of the test, and even the duration of the test.  Determining the most difficult bar exam and the one that is right for you is based on many factors.  The biggest factor in whether you pass the bar exam is you (and your study habits!)! You have the power to change your career path!

Although this is not a science, below is a list of the most difficult states for bar exams. The states are listed alphabetically:
 

California


California comes to mind when thinking about the hardest bar exams.  It is widely believed that the California bar exam is the most difficult in the country. California recently reduced its three-day "torture session" to two days.  Students might find that more manageable.  The pass rate in California is often the lowest of all 50 states (sometimes it is even less than 40%).  People should not be intimidated by this number, as many factors can impact individual results.  The success rate of first-time test takers does increase, and of course, it is dependent on the amount of effort one exerts.

It is important to know that California does not require law school graduates to attend an ABA-accredited law school, so this might reduce its pass rate. In almost all cases, non-accredited schools have lower pass rates than accredited schools. Keeping this in mind can help you determine a pass rate. Still, California's test is extremely challenging. Prepare yourself well.

Update: In 2020, California announced that it would lower its passing score to 1390 (rather than 1440). The news is great for California test-takers since it is likely to make a huge difference for California's pass rate.
 

Delaware


Partly because of the score required to pass, Delaware ranks as one of the toughest bar exams.  A minimum score of 145 is needed to pass, which is the highest in the nation.  Due to Delaware's annual exam schedule, students who fail the exam must wait many years before they can retake it.  The test covers a very narrow range of subjects that are taught in very few schools in the country.  Delaware is very picky about who can become a lawyer in the state, outside of the bar exam itself.  Hoops must be jumped through extensively.  The 2016 pass rate in Delaware was 66%, but only 69% of first-time takers passed.  The rate is below the national average.
 

Louisiana


One of the most unique bar exams in the country is that of Louisiana.  No standard testing portions have been adopted (MBE, MEE, MPT, etc.).  You should instead know both common law and civil law, or traditional law in France and other parts of Europe.  Louisiana law schools teach this material. Therefore, you should attend school in Louisiana if you plan to practice in Louisiana.

Louisiana does not allow the portability of scores.  The test lasts approximately 21 hours, and it consists of essays, short answers, and multiple-choice questions.  Based on statistics alone, Louisiana's 2016 bar test pass rate was around 65%, which does not suggest that it is the toughest test for lawyers.  What makes it difficult is rather its originality and strenuous format rather than the material itself.
 

Nevada


For first-time test takers, Nevada tied California with a pass rate of only 52%.  Even though it follows the nationwide MBE and MPT test, it also includes a challenging state essay component.  Also, Nevada requires the fourth-highest pass score in the country at 140.  The model answers for the essays are notorious for being extremely long. Therefore, students are expected to identify and discuss a great deal.
 

Virginia


In consideration of the wide variety of topics in Virginia's bar exam, it is among the hardest. The MBE is also required for this exam (but 24 different legal areas can be tested). This is a lot more than most other states. While a vast amount of this information will not be presented, students are forced to learn a lot more. If you are willing to put in the work, you have a good chance to pass, based on the pass rate in Virginia. You must wear a suit when taking the Virginia bar exam. Be aware of this when assessing testing conditions.
 

Does The Bar Exam Differ From State To State?


State-by-state, it does differ significantly.

In most states, multiple-choice is used for the MBE, which covers the seven main subjects of law school: torts, contracts, property, evidence, and crim/pro/crime.

There are, however, different subjects tested on the essays by almost every state. California typically has a community property issue. In New York, corporate law is big, so they test the UCC since it is not a community property state.

Additionally, the format varies by state; California has one of the longest tests and therefore covers a great deal more content. In most states, the test takes two days.

Many bar exam providers offer course material specific to each state, such as BarBri or Kaplan.

See A Comprehensive Guide to Bar Reciprocity: What States Have Reciprocity for Lawyers and Allow You to Waive into the Bar for more information. 

CLICK HERE TO SEARCH JOBS IN OTHER STATES!

Please see the following articles for more information about the bar exam and reciprocity:
   

Please see the following articles for more information about law school, the bar exam and succeeding in your first year of practice:
 


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