The MPRE, or Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam, is an exam for law students that covers their knowledge and understanding of the professional conduct expected of a lawyer. It takes approximately two hours to complete and includes 60 multiple-choice questions. Passing this exam is a requirement to practice in nearly every state/providence, exceptions including Wisconsin and Puerto Rico.
When it comes to exam prep, some choose to take a Professional Responsibility course before taking the MPRE. Though the course is not a requirement, it can help to create a foundational background for students. This can also simply be done through individual study or through online MPRE courses.
The MPRE can be taken in March, August, or October. In 2020, there are two dates available each month. The dates are as follows:
- March 12/13, 2020 (Registration date February 12, 2020)
- August 11/12, 2020 (Registration date June 25, 2020)
- October 23/28, 2020 (Registration date September 14, 2020)
Depending on the state you plan to practice in, you may have to pass the MPRE before taking the bar. Many law students choose to take the MPRE in the summer before their third year but some will also take it during their third year. There are different advantages depending on when the student decides to take the exam.
The Summer Before Year Three
Taking the MPRE the summer before your third year has a lot of advantages. As such, it is one of the most popular options. If your state requires that you pass the MPRE before taking the bar, taking it earlier rather than later will free up your year to focus on course work and, of course, the bar itself.
Taking the MPRE during the summer also means that you will likely have more time to study. Taking the MPRE in March or October means that you have to be strategic about finding time to study. If taken during the summer break, you can spend time dedicating yourself fully to studying for the MPRE.
Another advantage of taking it early is that you have more opportunities to retake it if you have an unsatisfactory score. You don’t want your time studying for the MPRE to interfere with the bar exam. If you take it in August before your third year, you have a chance to take it again in October, well before you’ll need to start preparing for the bar exam.
If you have failed at your first attempt at the MPRE, don’t be discouraged. This is fairly common. If you took it over the summer, you still have time to revisit some MPRE test tips and find other resources to help you the next time. It’s not uncommon for people to fail this exam once, twice, or even three times. That’s why getting a jump start on it is a good idea. You’re giving yourself some wiggle room.
During Year Three
Another popular option is to take the MPRE early in year three. Try to take the exam in October, because that way you don’t have to worry about it when the bar comes. This is essential if you plan to take the bar in February. Once you get into study time for the bar, you don’t want to add on any commitments or exams that you don’t need to.
Taking the MPRE for the first time in October if you plan to take the bar in February is a little risky though. You only have one chance to pass it. If you do not pass, you’ll have to either take it after the bar (and only if your state allows that) or you’ll have to change when you take the bar.
If you’re taking the bar in July, you still have an opportunity in March to take the MPRE. Even if you are waiting until July, try to take care of the MPRE in October. It’s the same reasoning that’s stated above. If you don’t pass in October, you have another chance to take the MPRE in March. You have one more chance before you have to start worrying about pushing back your bar exam.
After the Bar
Most jurisdictions require that bar exam applicants pass the MPRE before sitting. However, there are some that allow the bar to be taken first. If you choose this option, it’s likely that you’ve taken the MPRE already but haven’t passed. You may not have wanted to push back your bar exam date, so you’ve settled for taking care of the MPRE later.
While this is not an ideal situation, it is, perhaps, a better choice than trying to study for and take the MPRE too close to the bar. The bar exam is one of the most difficult exams that a person can take. It’s best to clear your schedule of all other commitments and distractions so that you can focus yourself on it 100%.
Before deciding that you want to take the MPRE after the bar exam, check the requirements of the jurisdiction in which you will practice. Depending on your state, these requirements can vary widely. Some states will allow you to practice if you pass the MPRE anywhere between two years before or five years after the bar. Other states require that you pass the MPRE somewhere in the year prior to passing the bar.
The option to take the MPRE after the bar is not available to everyone. Make sure that you’ve done the research and prepared yourself properly for the state you want to practice in.
When it comes to planning for the MPRE, the earlier you can get it out of the way, the better. Taking the MPRE earlier allows you some space if you do not pass in the first attempt or two. It also frees up your time to focus on the bar exam later.
Be strategic with your planning. Choose a date around which you will have adequate time to study and prepare yourself. With all the work you put into becoming a lawyer, derailing your whole plan because you underestimated the MPRE would be really unfortunate. Creating and executing your plan early will set you up for success.