Maine Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Maine Bar Exam

Passing the Maine 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 process of getting admitted via admission on motion for out-of-state attorneys.

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Maine Bar Exam Overview

The bar exam in Maine is administered by the Maine Board of Bar Examiners (the Board).

The Board holds the bar exam twice a year on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. For the February exam, candidates must submit their applications between October 15 and December 20 of the preceding year.

For the July exam, the application window opens between March 15 and May 20 of the same year.

Applicants who’ve been admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction for more than one year must pay a fee of $650 when applying, while those applying for the first time or within their first year of admission in any jurisdiction can pay a reduced fee of $600.

Additionally, late applications will incur an additional fee of $150 if submitted within seven days after the initial deadline, or $300 if submitted between eight and 14 days after the deadline. The Board won’t accept applications submitted more than 14 days after the standard filing deadlines.

In order to be eligible for the Maine bar exam, you must satisfy one of the following criteria as specified in Rule 803 of Title 4, Chapter 17, Subchapter 1: Admission To Practice, of the Maine Judiciary rules:

  1. Graduate From an ABA-Approved Law School: Applicants must be a graduate of a US law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
  2. Graduate From a Jurisdiction-Approved Law School: Applicants must be a graduate of a law school accredited in the US jurisdiction where it’s located, been admitted to practice by examination in one or more US jurisdictions, and actively practiced law there for at least three years.
  3. Graduate From a Foreign Law School: Applicants must be a graduate of a foreign law school with a legal education that, in the Board’s opinion, is equivalent to that provided by ABA-accredited law schools.
  4. Complete the Required Law Office Study: Applicants should have successfully completed two thirds of the requirements for graduation from an ABA-accredited law school and then pursued the study of law in the office of an attorney within the state of Maine for at least one year.

In addition, each applicant must provide satisfactory evidence to the Board of having graduated with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university or having successfully completed at least two years’ work as a candidate for such a degree at an accredited institution.

Note: Following the amendment to Rule 11 by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Oct. 4, 2022, a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) isn’t required to take the Maine bar exam.

Maine Exam Structure

In 2017, the state of Maine 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 is scored out of 400 points, 270 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 80 on the MPRE in order to be eligible for the Maine 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 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:

  • 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 Maine Bar Exam

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

Maine Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Maine’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 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 Maine Bar Requirements

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

  1. Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation
  2. Satisfying the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements

1. Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation

Per Rule 9: Good Character and Fitness to Practice Law, the Board requires each applicant to produce satisfactory evidence of their good character and fitness. This process involves a comprehensive assessment that starts with applicants demonstrating, as per Rule 5, the absence of any information that might negatively affect their character and fitness for the legal profession.

The Board performs detailed assessments to confirm the accuracy of the information provided by applicants. In instances where it harbors doubts about an applicant’s character or fitness based on the initial review, the Board may initiate further investigation. This can lead to a more in-depth inquiry, which includes requests for additional information, explanations, or clarifications from the applicant.

Should concerns persist after preliminary assessments and investigations, the process may escalate to a formal hearing to resolve any remaining doubts. This hearing, conducted by members of the Board not involved in the initial review, is designed to allow the applicant to present evidence, call witnesses, and directly address any concerns raised by the Board.

Ultimately, the Board, reflecting the trust placed in it by the public, will do its utmost to ensure all individuals admitted to practice law in Maine uphold the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and ethical conduct.

Note: The Board may conditionally admit applicants who’ve previously demonstrated questionable character and fitness for practicing law, but have since shown significant rehabilitation and improvement in conduct. This conditional admission requires the applicant’s consent to specific terms and conditions outlined in a written agreement.

2. Satisfying the CLE Requirements

After gaining admission to the bar, Maine attorneys are bound by CLE requirements outlined in the Maine Bar Rule 5.

Specifically, attorneys must complete 12 hours of approved CLE annually with at least seven of these hours being interactive live sessions. Within these live sessions, it’s compulsory to dedicate an hour to ethics and professionalism as well as another hour to the recognition and avoidance of harassment and discriminatory practices.

To comply with these CLE mandates, attorneys must verify their completion of the required hours by January 1 for the activities of the preceding year. Moreover, if an attorney accrues more than the stipulated CLE hours, the rules allow them to roll over up to 11 surplus hours into the next calendar year.

Keep in mind that attorneys in inactive status, full-time judges, and educators at ABA-approved law schools are exempt from these requirements.

Note: For more information, visit the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar website.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Maine’s legal framework allows attorneys who’re already admitted and in good standing in another state, US territory, or the District of Columbia to practice law in Maine without having to take the Maine bar exam.

This is made possible through a process known as admission on motion, which is detailed in Rule 11A: Reciprocal Admission by Motion.

For an attorney to qualify for admission on Motion, they must meet several criteria. These include:

  • Being primarily engaged in the active practice of law in one or more US jurisdictions for at least three of the five years immediately preceding the date on which they file the motion;
  • Possessing a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from an ABA-approved law school or its equivalent from a common law country;
  • Passing the MPRE as stipulated by Rule 11;
  • Maintaining a disciplinary record free of current or pending matters;
  • Demonstrating good character and fitness for practicing law in Maine; and
  • Completing 15 hours of Maine practice and procedure CLE, approved by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, within the year preceding certification for admission

Please note that attorneys who’ve failed the Maine bar exam within the five years prior to their application, those who’ve resigned from practicing law in Maine, and those who’ve been disbarred or are currently under suspension will not qualify for admission via this route.

Note: As of May 3, 2017, the reciprocity requirement for admission by motion to the Maine bar has been eliminated, meaning that there are no state-specific limitations for qualified applicants.

For additional information, you can visit the Maine Board of Bar Examiners Admission by Motion page.

Maine Bar Exam FAQ

Can you take the bar without going to law school in Maine?

No. In Maine, direct admission to the bar without completing law school isn’t permitted. Having said that, an exception exists for those who complete two thirds of their law school coursework at an ABA-accredited institution before transitioning to a year-long, supervised law office study (pending approval from the Board).

How long is the Maine bar exam?

The Maine bar exam occurs over a period of two days. On the first day, candidates tackle the MPT and the MEE. The following day focuses on the MBE, which covers a wide array of legal topics. Remember, you’ll also need a MPRE minimum passing score of 80 in order to gain admission to the bar.

How hard is it to pass the Maine state bar examination?

Passing the Maine bar examination requires thorough preparation and understanding of a wide range of legal topics. With the right study strategy and resources, passing the exam on your first attempt is definitely achievable. Review past Maine bar exam results in order to get insights into how other candidates have performed.

How much does the Maine bar exam cost?

The cost of the Maine bar exam varies, depending on an applicant’s status. Those who’ve been admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction for more than one year must pay a $650 fee. For all other applicants, the fee is $600. Interested in learning more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.