So, you are already licensed to practice law in one state and now want to become licensed in a second jurisdiction. If you are really lucky, the second jurisdiction will admit you upon a motion and the completion of an application (see Iowa for example). If you took the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) you might be lucky enough to get reciprocity from another UBE jurisdiction.
However, other jurisdictions might force you to take the complete bar exam all over again unless you meet certain requirements allowing you to take a shorter version of the bar exam called the “Attorneys’ Exam.” The requirements to qualify for the Attorneys’ Exam often include a minimum period as a licensed practicing attorney (anywhere from three to five years), and whether your license and/or degree are from somewhere outside the United States. Should you qualify for the Attorneys’ Exam and you are truly motivated, the next step you should take is to develop a viable plan for success. When developing this plan recognize your time and financial restrictions, and consider the following:
1. Where Do You Want To Go Next?
Any decision on where to take your next bar exam has to start with an understanding of the requirements set out by this new jurisdiction. What is considered an “Attorneys’ Exam” will vary from state to state. For instance, in California, to sit for the one-day Attorneys’ Examination, you must be a licensed attorney in good standing from another US jurisdiction for at least four years. If you do not meet this threshold, then you will have to sit for the entire two-day exam, including the MBE. Conversely, if you qualify for the Attorneys’ Exam in California, you will only have to sit for one day of writing.
2. How Much Time Can You Really Devote To Studying For The Attorneys’ Exam?
If you are already licensed somewhere, you are probably working. My guess is you will not be taking off a significant amount of time to study. Depending on how long it has been since you took your last bar exam, you will have to be realistic about how much time it will take for you to “relearn” the material needed for the exam. Therefore, if you plan to work the entire time you are studying for the exam, you will have to be disciplined about setting up a study schedule. Whether your study schedule will span a three-month period, or a one-month period depends on how much you decide to work while studying. Be realistic about your schedule and the time you will need to devote to this effort.
3. Should You Do This On Your Own, Or Sign Up For A Bar Prep Program?
Again, the answer to this question depends on the amount of time and money you have to devote to this effort. If you have been practicing law for a while, I’ll take a guess that you have become disciplined. If you combine that level of discipline with cutting back on some of your work hours, or taking a few weeks off before the exam, then a self-study program might work for you. However, if it has been a while since you took the bar exam, are not sure how much time you can actually take off to study, or are not confident about your level of discipline, signing up for a bar prep course focused on the Attorneys’ Exam might be your best option. One benefit of this second approach is that you will have someone in the background keeping you on track and accountable. A variety of programs are available with different price tags that could fit your needs perfectly.
4. What Should You Study?
This question is not necessarily the same in every jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have unique requirements for what will be tested. For example, in California, it is essential to know Community Property and Professional Responsibility (both the ABA and California versions). Texas, like UBE states, requires you to know about Secured Transactions. UBE states test Conflicts of Laws. Knowing exactly what subjects should be included in your study plan will make your use of time more efficient.
Taking your next bar exam requires thoughtful planning. The circumstances existing when you took that first bar exam do not exist now. You are not fresh out of law school, where the material and essay writing techniques were more familiar. Recognize your limitations and what you will need to do to be successful. Knowledge about the specific bar exam you will be taking, along with the best options for bar prep will help you meet this new challenge.