Where can I practice law if I pass the Uniform Bar Exam?

Passing the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in and of itself means you can practice law…NOWHERE!

Passing the UBE is a wonderful accomplishment, but it is only one part of the process of gaining admission to practice law in a UBE jurisdiction.  Thankfully, just about everyone would say it is the hardest part of the process.  So, while you have more work to do to achieve your dream of practicing law, the worst of it is over after you pass the UBE!

Currently, over 30 states have adopted the UBE.  But, each of those states sets its own bar admission requirements, and these requirements can vary significantly.  Interestingly, even “passing the UBE” could mean something different depending on the jurisdiction in which you are seeking admission.  For example, in Alabama, a score of at least 260 means that you have passed the UBE.  But, in Alaska, you need at least a score of 280 to pass the UBE!  Make sure you know what the passing score is in the jurisdiction in which you are seeking admission.

In addition to the difference in minimum passing scores, the rest of the bar admission process can look very different as well depending on the particular UBE jurisdiction.  So not only is it important to remember that there are additional requirements for admission other than simply passing the UBE, but it is important to remember that such requirements can vary greatly.  Here are some of the major requirements as well as some examples of how they can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction:

  • Character and Fitness Determinations

While every jurisdiction evaluates the character and fitness of applicants for admission to the bar, not every jurisdiction actually publishes its character and fitness standards.  New York does not publish the standards it uses to evaluate a candidate’s character and fitness, but California does.  If your state publishes such standards, it would be wise for you to consult them.  Another significant difference between jurisdictions is that some hold that a felony conviction is an outright bar to admission.  So, while a felony conviction will not outright stop you from being admitted to practicing law in Massachusetts, it will stop you from practicing law in Kansas until 5 years after the date of the completion of your sentence or period of probation.

  • Jurisdiction-specific Components before Admission

In some jurisdictions, it is not enough to simply take and pass the UBE—you must also demonstrate knowledge of jurisdiction-specific law.  For example, in New York, you must take an online course and then pass an online exam on New York specific law.  But, if you’re seeking admission to practice law in New Jersey, you will not need to demonstrate knowledge of any New Jersey specific law.

  • Admission Fees

These fees vary widely across jurisdictions and range from a couple hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.  These fees also depend on whether you are already admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction.  For example, if you were seeking admission to practice law in Oregon, your fee would be $750 if you are not admitted in any other jurisdiction.  However, if you are admitted elsewhere, your fee would be a whopping $1,175 to add Oregon to the list of states where you practice.

The most important thing to take away from this is that passing the UBE is not enough to be able to practice law in any jurisdiction.  There may be just a few other requirements or more than a few, depending on your jurisdiction!  Here’s to hoping your jurisdiction has just a few, including a teeny tiny admission fee!

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