Alabama Bar Exam

Written by: Will Bond

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Alabama Bar Exam

Passing the Alabama bar exam is an essential part of being admitted into the state’s bar and beginning a successful career practicing law.

In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to get started, including:

  • The bar exam’s eligibility criteria, content, and structure;
  • The steps you can take in order to give yourself the best chance of passing on your first attempt; and
  • The additional requirements you’ll need to satisfy in order to become admitted into the state’s bar

We’ll also briefly look at the process of becoming admitted for out-of-state attorneys.

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Alabama Bar Exam Overview

The Alabama State Bar Admissions Office administers the bar exam, according to the process and requirements outlined by the Alabama Supreme Court’s rules governing admission to the Alabama State Bar.

If you plan to take the bar exam in Alabama, you’ll have two opportunities to do so each year: once on the last consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday of February and again on the same two days in July.

The registration deadline is October 1 for the February exam cycle and February 1 for the July exam cycle. Candidates also must pay a $575 application fee. Importantly, the Alabama State Bar can’t permit any late filings because the Alabama Supreme Court sets these deadlines.

Bar Exam Prerequisites

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Alabama bar exam, you’ll need to satisfy the following criteria as outlined in the Supreme Court’s Rules Governing Admission to the Alabama State Bar:

  1. Meet the Minimum Age Requirement: All applicants must be at least 19 years old to qualify to take the exam for admission to the Alabama State Bar.
  2. Obtain Sufficient Prelegal Education: Any applicants with a degree from a law school that wasn’t approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) at the time they graduated must prove they meet the following additional education requirements:
    • They received a degree from an institution approved by any agency recognized by the United States Department of Education at the time they graduated
    • They received this degree before they commenced law school
  3. Register With the Alabama State Bar: Within 60 days of starting their legal studies at any law school, all applicants must register with the secretary of the Board of Bar Commissioners of the Alabama State Bar. They can do this by completing and filing the online registration application. Any applications made after this period will incur late fees, ranging from $50 to $250.
  4. Pass a Character and Fitness Review: After registration, all applicants will be subject to an initial review of their character and fitness by the Committee on Character and Fitness. Depending on your record and past conduct, you also may need to appear before the Committee in person.
  5. Graduate With a Qualifying Legal Education: Applicants must provide the secretary of the Board of Bar Commissioners with a certificate from the dean of their law school, verifying they finished legal studies that satisfy one of the following requirements:
    • The course lasted at least three academic years of 30 weeks each and is from an ABA- or Association of American Law Schools (AALS)-approved law school
    • The course was completed at Birmingham School of Law, Jones School of Law of Faulkner University (before 2006), or Miles College of Law, and:
      1. Lasted at least either four academic years of 30 weeks each or three academic years (if it was full time).
      2. Since the applicant graduated, this law school has remained in operation in the same county it was based in on Aug. 30, 1995.

Note: If you qualify to take the Alabama bar exam, you’ll receive a certificate of registration from the Secretary of the Board of Bar Commissioners of the Alabama State Bar that you’ll need to take the exam.

Alabama Exam Structure

In 2011, the state of Alabama adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which adheres to the following structure:

Day 1:

  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT): Two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test Questions (20%)
  • Multistate Essay Examination (MEE): Six 30-minute Multistate Essay Exam questions (30%)

Day 2:

  • Multistate Bar Examination (MBE): 200-question multiple-choice exam (50%)

The UBE exam is scored out of 400 points, 260 of which need to be answered correctly in order for a candidate to receive a passing mark.

Moreover, candidates must obtain a passing score of 75 on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) in order to be eligible for the Alabama bar.

Below, we’ve broken down the content and structure of each exam-related requirement in more detail.

Multistate Performance Test (MPT)

The MPT is made up of two 90-minute parts, and the materials for each part contain a “File” and a “Library.”

The File consists of source documents and other reference material that contain all of the facts of a specific case.

As the examinee, the assignment that you will need to complete will be described in a memorandum from a supervising attorney.

The File can also include things like transcripts of interviews, depositions, pleadings, trials, client documents, newspaper articles, police reports, and any other similar documents.

Keep in mind that irrelevant information is generally included, and facts are sometimes incomplete, ambiguous, or even conflicting.

This is meant to mirror legal practice, in which a client’s or supervising attorney’s version of events may be unreliable or entirely incomplete. In such a scenario, you will be expected to recognize when facts are inconsistent or missing in the exam and identify sources of additional facts.

The Library part contains things like cases, statutes, and regulations, some of which may also not be relevant to the task that you will be assigned. You will need to be able to extract the legal principles required to analyze the legal problem you’ll be presented with and perform the requested task.

For more information, you can have a look at the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ Instructions for Taking the MPT document.

Free summaries of MPTs from recent examinations are also offered (e.g., MPT Summaries of 2023).

Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)

The MEE consists of six 30-minute sections that can cover a variety of legal areas, including:

  • Federal Civil Procedure
  • Business Associations (e.g., Agency and Partnership, LLCs, Corporations, etc.)
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contract Law
  • Family Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Torts
  • Trust and Estates

Keep in mind that questions can often include issues in more than one area of law. This means that it’ll be important to ensure that you have a “wide” range of understanding rather than a deep focus on one or two subjects.

Note: For more information, have a look at the NCBE’s official Instructions for Taking the MEE document or check out a few official MEE questions.

Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)

The MBE is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions, which are broken down into 175 scored questions and 25 unscored questions.

The exam is broken down into two three-hour sections, with one administered in the morning and one in the afternoon, both of which contain 100 questions each.

Keep in mind that there are no scheduled breaks during either one of the sections.

All 175 scored questions on the exam are distributed evenly, with 25 questions being attributed to each of the following seven topics:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Civil Procedure
  • Contract Law
  • Real Property
  • Tort Law
  • Evidence
  • Criminal Law and Procedure

Each question on the MBE exam will have four potential answers. You should choose what you believe is the best answer — keep in mind that scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly, and points are not subtracted for answering incorrectly.

If you want to have a look at the exact format, you can have a look at the NCBE’s official MBE Sample Test Questions document.

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Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

The MPRE is made up of 60 multiple-choice questions (50 scored questions and 10 unscored questions) and is administered via Pearson VUE.

Like the MBE exam, each question offers four possible answers, one of which is correct.

The exam’s content is based on law that relates to the conduct and discipline of attorneys and judges and includes the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Model Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as important constitutional common law and generally accepted principles.

In relation to questions of professional responsibility in the context of evidentiary issues (e.g., litigation sanctions, attorney-client evidentiary privilege, etc.), the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence will apply unless otherwise stated.

Note: You will have two hours to complete the MPRE exam in its entirety.

For more information, we recommend having a look at the NCBE’s Official Sample Test Questions document. A holistic Subject Matter Outline is also offered.

How to Pass the Alabama Bar Exam

In order to give yourself the best chance of passing the Alabama UBE on your first attempt, it’s important to take enough time to make sure you’re adequately prepared.

Alabama Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Alabama’s bar exam, passing it on your first attempt is definitely possible with the right tools and preparation techniques.

Here are a few key tips that should aid you in your licensing journey:

  • Start strong in your first year. This is important due to the fundamental areas of law practice that the first year of law school generally covers, such as contract, tort, and constitutional Law
  • Leverage academic support. If your law school offers additional support services aimed at improving your preparation, use these as much as possible. This can involve one-on-one tutoring, academic counseling, and mock exam programs
  • Obtain practical legal experience. If possible, gain as much practical experience as you can during law school (e.g., through summer internships, mock trials, etc.). This experience can go a long way in cementing your legal knowledge
  • Adopt a broad study approach. When studying for the bar, aim for a wide-ranging understanding of various subjects rather than an in-depth study of a few. This is important given the huge amount of content you’ll need to learn for this test

Most importantly, make sure you remain consistent so you don’t have to resort to last-minute cramming.

Research shows people retain a higher degree of information — and more easily — when revisiting old content vs. learning it for the first time. This is known as Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve.

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Other Alabama Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Alabama bar exam, you’ll need to meet several other requirements in order to become — and remain — a licensed attorney in the state. These include:

  1. Getting Certified by the Committee on Character and Fitness
  2. Completing the Online Course for Alabama Law
  3. Satisfying Alabama Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Requirements

1. Getting Certified by the Committee on Character and Fitness

In order to ensure the fitness of candidates hoping to practice law in Alabama, the Committee on Character and Fitness of the Alabama State Bar conducts investigations as it sees fit into their past conduct.

This character and fitness review gets triggered when you submit your application to the Alabama State Bar. As part of it, you must disclose any relevant past issues impacting your character and fitness, financial history, legal history, and personal life.

On top of this, the Committee may request you submit additional information or documents as well as appear in person in some cases. The Committee will then further investigate your disclosures and discuss any concerns raised during the review, which might involve:

  • Verifying information you provided
  • Contacting references and employers or reviewing court records
  • Hiring investigators for more complex cases

Note: If this review of your past conduct is successful, the secretary of the Board of Bar Commissioners of the Alabama State Bar will present you with a certificate you’ll need to provide in order to take the bar exam.

2. Completing the Online Course for Alabama Law

In order to gain permission to practice law in Alabama, all applicants for admission by examination or transfer of their UBE score must take an online video course per Rule VI(B).A.(3) of the Alabama Supreme Court’s rules governing admission to the Alabama State Bar.

This online course includes the following eight modules:

  • Alabama Constitution
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Civil Litigation
  • Criminal Law
  • Family Law
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Wills and Trusts/Probate

In order to gain admission to the Alabama State Bar, you must complete all of these online learning modules.

If you plan to apply for admission by examination, you should get access to the course within seven to 10 days of taking the bar exam. If you plan to apply for admission by UBE score transfer, however, expect to gain access after the Committee on Character and Fitness approves your application.

3. Satisfying Alabama MCLE Requirements

Each year, all attorneys qualified to practice law in Alabama must complete at least 12 hours of MCLE courses approved by the Alabama State Bar. This ensures they stay updated on changes in laws, regulations, and legal practices and can continue to provide effective representation to their clients.

At least one hour must focus on the subject of ethics and professionalism, and attorneys need to spend a minimum of six hours in live programs approved by the Alabama State Bar. They can satisfy the remainder of this 12-hour requirement through the completion of any other MCLE activity approved by the Alabama State Bar.

Note: You can find an approved course list on your profile page after logging into the Alabama State Bar Member Portal.

Admission Without Examination (Reciprocity)

If you’ve already qualified as an attorney in another state, you may apply for the Alabama State Bar without needing to take an exam through a process called admission without examination (reciprocity).

In order to be eligible for this admission option, you must meet the below requirements:

  • You’re qualified to practice law in another reciprocal jurisdiction within the United States (see below);
  • You hold a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an ABA-approved law school;
  • You’ve actively practiced law in a US jurisdiction for five of the six years prior to your application;
  • You’re currently in good standing with all jurisdictions in which you’re qualified to practice law;
  • You have no pending disciplinary matters in any other state;
  • You satisfy the character and fitness requirements needed to practice law in Alabama;
  • You haven’t failed the Alabama bar exam within the last 10 years;
  • You’re a permanent resident within Alabama when making the application (or you verify your intention to maintain an office in this state and engage in the “primary practice of law” here);
  • You’ve achieved a passing score of at least 75 on the MPRE; and
  • You’re compliant with the requirements outlined in Rule I.

If you satisfy the above requirements, you’ll be eligible to submit an application for admission without examination using the Alabama State Bar Admissions Office online application system.

In addition to your application, you must provide the following documents as part of the application process:

  • The Reciprocity Application Paper Items Packet
  • Your Certificate of Graduation from an approved law school
  • A Certificate of Good Standing for the jurisdictions in which you’ve been admitted to the bar
  • An Abstract of Driving Record from all states in which you’ve held a driver’s license
  • Your MPRE score report

Here’s a full list of the states with which Alabama shares reciprocity:

District of ColumbiaMinnesotaTennessee
IowaNew HampshireWashington
KansasNew MexicoWyoming
KentuckyNorth Dakota

Note: If you’re qualified to practice law in a state that’s not listed above, you’ll need to include a completed Certificate of Jurisdictional Reciprocity alongside the rest of your application.

Alabama Bar Exam FAQ

How hard is the Alabama bar exam?

The Alabama state bar exam is challenging, requiring extensive preparation and knowledge of state-specific laws. It covers a wide range of legal topics, including contracts, torts, criminal law, and civil procedure, requiring examinees to make good use of the reference material supplied in order to score high marks.

What is the pass rate for the Alabama bar exam?

Alabama bar exam results typically vary from year to year, but the percentage of first-time examinees who pass typically hovers around 75% to 80%. While pass rates can fluctuate based on factors like the difficulty of the exam, the biggest factor controlling this statistic is the preparedness of test takers. Check out our What is the Bar Exam article for preparation tips.

How much does it cost to take the bar exam in Alabama?

The cost to take the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) in Alabama typically varies between $575 and $1,450 depending on the type of application being made. However, outside of this, the total Alabama bar exam cost is unlikely to vary much from this figure because the state doesn’t permit late filing.

What states have reciprocity with the Alabama bar exam?

Alabama has reciprocity for attorneys licensed in other states with similar admission requirements that meet certain requirements, such as actively practicing law for five of the six years immediately preceding their application. For more Alabama bar exam information, see our overview on this topic above.