Delaware Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Delaware Bar Exam

Passing the Delaware 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
  • 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 requirements you’ll need to satisfy in order to maintain your attorney license.

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Delaware Bar Exam Overview

The Delaware Board of Bar Examiners (the Board), operating under the authority of the Delaware Supreme Court, is the body responsible for administering the bar exam in this state.

The Board is responsible for overseeing the bar admission process and ensuring all candidates meet the rigorous standards for legal practice in the state of Delaware.

The exam schedule features biannual sessions on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. For the July session, candidates must meet an early filing deadline of April 18 or a final deadline of May 2. For the February session, the early filing deadline is Nov. 7 and the final deadline is Dec. 5.

Law school graduates must pay an early registration fee of $700, which increases to $900 for registration by the final deadline. Attorneys, on the other hand, face an early registration fee of $800 or a $1,000 fee if they register by the final deadline.

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Delaware bar exam, you will need to satisfy the following criteria according to the rules set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court:

  1. Legal Age: Applicants must be at least 21 years old to qualify for the Delaware bar exam.
  2. College Degree: Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent that meets the admission criteria for an American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school.
  3. Legal Education: Applicants must be graduates of an ABA-accredited law school with a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree.

If an applicant gains admission to an ABA-accredited law school without a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, they must submit to the Board a statement from their law school that explains the reason(s) for the applicant’s admission despite the absence of a typical undergraduate degree. The Board will then assess if this explanation meets the necessary criteria for eligibility.

Delaware Exam Structure

Unlike the majority of other states, Delaware chose not to adopt the Universal Bar Exam (UBE). Instead, it uses its own proprietary assessment.

This exam consists of three main components, as outlined below.

Day 1:

  • Delaware-Specific Essays: Four essay questions prepared by the Board of Bar Examiners
  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT): Two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test Questions

Day 2:

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

Candidates must reach a minimum total scale score of 143 out of 200 to pass the bar exam, which they can attain through any combination of scores from the MBE, the Delaware-specific essays, and the MPT.

Moreover, candidates must achieve a scaled score of 85 or higher on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) in order to be eligible for the Delaware bar.

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

Delaware-Specific Essays

The Delaware-specific essays test candidates on their adeptness in applying legal principles within the unique context of Delaware’s legal system. This segment of the exam demands a thorough comprehension of Delaware law along with the ability to present logical, compelling arguments.

The essays may encompass topics from various areas, including, but not limited to:

  • Business Entities: Focusing on Delaware corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships
  • Civil Procedure: Covering procedural rules in Delaware’s Supreme Court, Court of Chancery, Superior Court, Family Court, and the US District Court for the District of Delaware
  • Constitutional Law: Assessing candidates’ understanding of both the US and Delaware Constitutions
  • Contracts: Testing candidates’ knowledge on the formation, interpretation, and enforcement of contracts under Delaware law
  • Criminal Law and Procedure: Evaluating candidates’ familiarity with the Delaware Criminal Code and procedural aspects of criminal law
  • Equity: Examining principles of equity as they apply in Delaware courts
  • Evidence: Assessing candidates’ understanding of evidence rules applicable in Delaware’s legal proceedings
  • Property: Testing candidates’ knowledge of real and personal property laws, which include transactions and disputes
  • Torts: Focusing on civil wrongs and remedies under Delaware law
  • Wills and Trusts: Assessing candidates’ understanding of estate planning and probate processes in Delaware

In evaluating these essays, examiners consider the candidate’s knowledge of the law, application of law to facts, analytical skills, ability to reason logically, and writing clarity.

The main objective is to gauge not only the candidate’s memorization of legal facts, but also their practical ability to use this knowledge in constructing well-founded legal arguments.

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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 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 Bar Examination (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 Delaware Rules
  • 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.

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 National Conference of Bar Examiners’ (NCBE) Official Sample Test Questions document. A holistic Subject Matter Outline is also offered.

How to Pass the Delaware Bar Exam

In order to give yourself the best chance of passing the Delaware bar exam on your first attempt, it’s important to take enough time to make sure that you are adequately prepared.

Delaware Bar Exam Tips

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

Below, we’ve broken down 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 Contracts, Tort, and Constitutional Law
  • Leverage Academic Support: If your law school offers additional support services that are aimed at improving your preparation, we recommend utilizing these as much as possible. This can involve one-on-one tutoring, academic counseling, and mock exam programs
  • Obtain Practical Legal Experience: If possible, we recommend gaining as much practical experience as you can during law school (i.e., through summer internships, mock trials, etc.). This is because this can go a long way in cementing your legal knowledge
  • Adopt a Broad Study Approach: When studying for the bar, you should aim for a wide-ranging understanding of various subjects rather than an in-depth study of a few. This is important due to the huge amount of content that you will need to learn and/or will be tested on

Most importantly, make sure you remain consistent so that you do not have to resort to last-minute cramming.

Research has shown that we are able to retain a higher degree of information – and more easily – when revisiting old content in comparison to when learning it for the first time. This is known as Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve.

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Other Delaware Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Delaware bar exam, there are several other requirements you will need to meet in order to become and remain a licensed attorney in the state, including:

  • Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation
  • Completing the Clerkship Requirement
  • Obtaining a Preceptor
  • Attending the Pre-Admission Conference
  • Completing the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

1. Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation

As mandated by Delaware Supreme Court Rule 51(c)(6), applicants must undergo a thorough character and fitness evaluation before gaining admission to the bar.

This evaluation is a comprehensive review of the applicant’s background, focusing on behavior that reflects their integrity and reliability.

Key areas of inquiry include, but are not limited to:

  • Legal and Academic Conduct: Academic misconduct, violation of honor codes, and any actions by legal or professional disciplinary bodies
  • Criminal History: Charges, convictions, or any other unlawful conduct with particular attention to how an applicant has resolved and learned from these experiences
  • Financial Responsibility: Handling of financial obligations, including dealings with creditors and tax obligations

In assessing these aspects, the Board considers various factors on a case-by-case basis. This includes the seriousness of the conduct, the time elapsed since its occurrence, evidence of rehabilitation, and the applicant’s candor and cooperation throughout the admissions process.

Note: Applicants bear the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence their good moral character and reputation along with the qualities, aptitudes, and disposition that suit them for the practice of law.

2. Completing the Clerkship Requirement

To gain admission to the Delaware bar, candidates must undergo a 12-week clerkship in Delaware during which they dedicate 40 hours each week under a Delaware attorney’s supervision.

The purpose of this clerkship is to offer practical legal training and a deeper understanding of the state’s legal procedures and practices. During the clerkship, applicants will engage in various legal tasks like attending trials and hearings, participating in the preparation of legal documents, and assisting in estate administration and company incorporation.

These activities are recorded and submitted for review along with a certification upon completion. This process not only reinforces the applicant’s legal knowledge and skills, but also emphasizes the importance of practical experience in their development as competent attorneys.

Importantly, the clerkship requirement reflects Delaware’s long-standing tradition of mentorship in the legal profession and draws inspiration from the legal training practices of the English Inns of Court. It’s designed to instill in future lawyers the values of integrity, civility, ethics, and legal excellence.

Note: For more detailed information on the clerkship requirement, visit the Delaware Courts website.

3. Obtaining a Preceptor

Under Delaware’s bar admission rules, every candidate must secure a preceptor — an attorney with at least 10 years of admission to the Delaware Bar — who’ll guide them through the intricacies of legal practice in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 52 and related regulations. 

This mentorship is designed to instill values of civility, legal ethics, professionalism, and the conduct expected of a bar member.

The preceptor’s involvement is essential and includes several key responsibilities:

  • Mentorship Duties: Preceptors mentor their applicants on legal ethics, professionalism, and expected behaviors to ensure their applicants’ thorough understanding and adherence to these core principles
  • Evaluative Responsibilities: Preceptors also must regularly assess an applicant’s progress, including their adherence to the clerkship and legal activities checklist. This process entails a detailed review of the applicant’s application to ensure its accuracy and completeness
  • Certification Obligations: Preceptors then need to certify, through specific Board-provided forms, that the applicant has met all the necessary requirements, confirming their readiness and adherence to the standards of the clerkship and legal activities

The preceptorship is designed to ensure new entrants to the bar are not only proficient in the practice of law, but also embody the professionalism and integrity that define the legal practice in Delaware.

Note: For applicants facing difficulties in finding a preceptor, the Preceptor Bank can offer assistance.

4. Attending the Pre-Admission Conference

Finally, prior to gaining admission to the bar, candidates must attend a two-day Pre-Admission Conference.

This mandatory event is designed to introduce newly admitted attorneys to the foundational aspects of legal practice, including ethical standards and professional responsibilities.

It’s unique in that it offers Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits even before candidates are formally admitted to the bar, emphasizing its critical role in preparing them for a legal career.

All prospective members of the Delaware legal community have to attend — in professional attire — which highlights the event’s significance and the profession’s formal nature.

Note: This conference not only fulfills a crucial educational requirement, but also signals the transition into the responsibilities and commitments of a legal career in Delaware.

5. Completing the CLE Requirements

Upon admission to the Delaware Bar, newly admitted attorneys must fulfill CLE requirements. Specifically, attorneys must attend seven essential programs offered by the Delaware State Bar Association within the first four years — or two compliance periods — after their admission.

These programs include:

  • Fundamentals of Lawyer-Client Relations
  • Fundamentals of Family Law
  • Fundamentals of Real Estate
  • Fundamentals of Civil Litigation
  • Fundamentals of Will Drafting and Estate Administration
  • Fundamentals of Law Practice Management and Technology
  • Fundamentals of Criminal Law and Procedure

It is important to note that any CLE programs a candidate attends prior to their official admission to the Delaware Bar aren’t recognized (with the exception of the Pre-Admission Conference). In addition, courses aimed at preparing for bar exams in other jurisdictions don’t qualify for CLE credit in Delaware.

Note: For more details, consult the official Delaware CLE guidelines.

Delaware Bar Exam FAQ

How hard is the bar exam in Delaware?

The Delaware bar exam is recognized for its rigorous standards, showcasing the state’s dedication to upholding high legal and ethical benchmarks. Mastery of fundamental legal principles and a thorough understanding of Delaware-specific laws are essential for passing the exam and becoming a Delaware attorney.

What is the pass rate for the Delaware bar exam?

The pass rate for the Delaware bar examination fluctuates annually. To obtain the most accurate and up-to-date pass rates, check directly with the Delaware Board of Bar Examiners or visit the Delaware State Bar Association website — both integral parts of the Delaware judiciary system.

Can I take the Delaware bar exam without going to law school?

No, taking the Delaware bar exam requires a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree from an ABA-accredited law school. Delaware emphasizes a strong foundation in legal education as a prerequisite for taking the bar exam. Interested in learning more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

What score do you need to pass the DE bar?

To pass the DE bar exam, you need a minimum total scale score of 143 out of 200. You must achieve this score through a combination of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Delaware-specific essays, and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).