Let’s face it: the Bar exam is an expensive test. You need to pay exam fees, license fees, and additional costs to maintain your standing as a lawyer.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve graduated from law school or not; it’s important to know how much you’ll be spending if you want to become a licensed attorney.
Bar Exam Preparation
Even before the test itself, law students need to start worrying about fees. For instance, if you want to pass the Bar exam, you will need to study and prepare for weeks ahead of time. Consequently, for most people that will involve taking a Bar review course.
Any prep course worth your time tends to cost thousands of dollars. An example of this is Kaplan, which ranges in price from $1,800 to $4,000. Even some of the more affordable BAR review courses like BarMax still land in the ballpark of $1000 fees. Some of these costs can be minimized by only purchasing study courses for a specific section, such as UBE or MBE, but there will still be a substantial monetary investment.
However, if you’re worried that you cannot afford these prep courses, there are other options:
Many law firms have policies where they will pay Bar review course fees for prospective employees. This means that if you’ve already gotten post graduation job offers you may be able to request that they pay for your Bar exam study materials. However, not every firm will be receptive to the idea. Therefore, you should be sure to research whether or not your future employer has done this before.
Taking The MPRE
Almost every US jurisdiction requires that you pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) before you can be admitted to the Bar. Furthermore, some states even require that you have a passing MPRE score before you can take the Bar exam.
The MPRE is a 60 question test based on laws governing the conduct of lawyers. It costs $125 if you register for it by the regular deadline, and $220 for late registration. Additionally, registration fees for the MPRE must be paid for via credit card and is not refundable.
Registration For The Bar
Registration for the Bar exam itself varies from state to state. Prices can range from as low as $150 to $1500. This money is paid directly to the state’s Board of Law Examiners or equivalent.
However, location isn’t the only thing that impacts costs.
In some cases second time test takers are asked to pay less than first timers. If you’ve failed the exam and are trying again, some states will charge less. An example of this is Florida, which charges $1000 dollars for its test, but only $450 for repeaters.
Furthermore, although many states allow you to practice with your license in other states, some do not. In that case, you will have to take the Bar exam again, and the cost may be higher than when you first took it. Using Florida as an example again, licensed attorneys have to pay $1600 there in order to take the Bar examination.
Be sure to check the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Bar admission guide for a comprehensive list of fees for all fifty states.
Bar Exam Software
If you want to use a laptop to type your Bar exam essays, this will add on to your fees. Although it is much more convenient than handwriting them, it can cost up to $200 extra. Again this fee varies depending on which state you are taking the exam in.
One thing people don’t account for is that the Bar exam is a two day affair that may not be close to home. You may need to pay out of pocket for food and lodging during that time. Additionally, transportation costs such as has money or a plane ticket also add on to the cost. My advice to students is to try and figure out these accommodations and travel arrangements; if you don’t prepare for this, you could find yourself spending hundreds of dollars looking for last-minute accommodation.
Lost Work Time
Time spent preparing for and taking the test means time spent not working. Hence, you will have to account for lost wages when you take off work for the test, especially if you cannot get paid leave.
If you aren’t working when studying for the Bar exam you may be forced to take out loans to pay for living expenses. These are actually quite common and are referred to as bar loans: used to cover fees for prep courses, exams, and living expenses.
That being said, there are also hidden costs associated with bar loans. They’re private loans, so interest rates and fees will likely be higher than federal student loans. Be careful about taking these as they can cause you to lose a lot more money in the long run.
Expenses For The Bar Examination
Unfortunately, the costs don’t stop once you’ve completed the exam:
After completion of the exam, you may be asked to pay filing fees to your state Bar. This can include character and fitness checks as well as criminal history records. You’ll also likely need to file driving records and pay notary fees.
For example, candidates that have completed the California Bar exam are required to complete a moral character application that must be reviewed every three years. It’s similar to a background check that costs $640. Many states have similar requirements that cost hundreds of dollars to meet. Additionally, most of these fees are dependent on how far ahead of the deadline that you register, so be sure to do so as early as you can in order to save money.
Many states also require licensed attorneys to take Continuing Legal Education courses to stay up to date with current laws.
Remember: be sure to check with your state’s board of Bar examiners to know exactly what is required of you.
Much like law school, taking the Bar exam is an expensive commitment. However, there are many ways to mitigate costs. Most fees are dependent upon how far ahead of the filing deadline you register. Therefore, you should make sure that you prepare for your Bar exam well ahead of time and keep an eye out for hidden costs.
After adding up all of the total costs, you’re looking at a minimum price of about $6700. Luckily this does not all need to paid at once, and there are several ways to help pay for it. Workplaces may pay for Bar prep courses; in a worst case scenario, you can apply for a bar loan.
The Bar exam may be expensive, but if you can push your way through and complete it, your career as a lawyer will pay for itself.