Preparing for the Bar Timeline

Preparing for the Bar does not have to wait until your final year of Law School. This page will offer some recommendations for preparation steps you can do as a 1L, 2L, 3L, LLM student and other considerations. 

1L/2L To do

Compile your Documentation

During your 1L and 2L years, you can start compiling your application information in one place. Bar applications will ask for information as listed below. Some for up to the past 10 years. Keep or obtain records so that it is easily accessible when you complete your application.

  • Past Addresses
  • Employment History
  • Education History
  • Financial History
  • Credit History
  • Driving Record

Keep Track of References

Think about who you will want to list as references on your application. You do not need to reach out to them right now about the reference, but make sure you have a way to keep in touch or stay up to date on their contact information. Also as you start your law school career, think about how to develop relationships that could serve as future recommenders.

Character and Fitness

Just as was asked on your law school application, your bar application will ask you to disclose any charges, convictions, violations, misconduct, etc. whether or not they can be discovered through a background investigation. Having disclosures will not automatically prevent you from being admitted to the bar. If there are any records you need to find/disclose, please reach out sooner rather than later. Having the records now could prevent delays later on. Any questions or concerns about disclosures can be discussed with the Registrar’s Office. Read the NCBE’s summary of Character and Fitness Determinations by Jurisdiction.

Register as a Law Student in California

If you are planning to apply for application to the California Bar, California recommends that you register as a Law Student during your 1L year. Registering as a law student is required in order to apply to take the California Bar. There is a fee and processing time that is involved with this application, so please be sure to take that into consideration in the overall timeline of your bar application process.

End 2L year/Rising 3L summer To do

When will I take the bar exam?

Toward the end of your 2L year, it is recommended that you consider when to take the Bar exam. Many factors can go into deciding when to take the bar exam.

  • Will my employer require admission to the bar? If so, how soon?
  • How long will my bar exam score be accepted by a state?
    • Many states have limits to how long your bar exam score is valid for admission. If you have any plans to delay being admitted to the bar after you complete the bar exam, check how long your MPRE and Bar exam scores will be accepted by the state. 
  • When am I eligible to take the bar exam in the state I plan to be admitted?
    • Some states allow law students to take the bar exam if the student is within a certain time period or number of credits of obtaining their degree. If you would be interested in taking the bar exam prior to completing law school be sure to check this information can be found on the state's website.
  • You can also begin to check for the application requirements and deadlines for the bar exam in the state you plan on taking it in. Application deadlines are typically months in advance. Missing the deadline could mean incurring additional fees to take the exam or not being able to sit for that exam.
  • Many states will have the required application forms online. Look over the forms to see if you have collected all the necessary information for the application. If not, continue to collect your documentation.


Have you registered for the MPRE? If not, please plan to take the MPRE sooner rather than later. Delaying the MPRE can cause delays in your admittance to the Bar. The MPRE is not as strenuous as the bar exam and students can adequately prepare for the exam while in classes. 

3L To do

Complete your application early!

The earlier you apply the less you need to stress and can focus on school. Check the state’s deadlines and apply early to give you more time to determine any issues and have them remedied. Applying early can also save you money!

Complete the Bar Authorization Form

Most states will require documentation from the Law School to verify successful completion of your degree. To promote timely completion of required forms, the Registrar’s Office asks that students planning to apply to a State Bar complete the Bar Authorization Form so that we can send the required documentation to the states. 


Qualifying for the Bar exam

An LLM degree alone will likely not qualify someone to sit for the bar exam. Rather the combination of foreign legal education, foreign legal practice, and completion of additional educational credits within the United States will qualify them to sit for the bar exam. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) offers a helpful chart outlining which states allow foreign educated applicants to sit for the bar exam as well as which states allow applicants to sit once they earn a degree from an ABA approved law school.

Judicial Clerkships 

Students who will be clerking for a judge after graduation have some unique considerations relating to the bar exam in terms of both timing and expense reimbursement. Some judges prefer that their clerks not study or sit for the bar during their clerkships; in those situations, clerks schedule their bar exams around the start or end dates of their clerkships. Some judges prefer clerks to take the bar exam prior to the commencement of their clerkships. Other judges have no preference. Because clerks with bar admission and one year of legal experience are eligible for a higher pay grade, clerks who pass the bar prior to their clerkships may be entitled to a (prorated) salary hike late in their clerkship year.

If you will be working for a law firm upon the completion of your clerkship, the firm will most likely reimburse you for bar expenses and may provide you with a stipend for the summer you spend studying for the bar. Some judges do not allow clerks to receive any financial remuneration from an employer until the end of the clerkship year, other judges allow clerks to accept certain types of reimbursement. The best approach with regard to all of these issues is to speak with your judge about his/her bar exam preferences. Be sure to discuss your interest in Judicial Clerkships with Career Services