Montana Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Montana Bar Exam

Passing the Montana 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 as an out-of-state attorney.

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Montana Bar Exam Overview

The Montana bar exam is conducted by the Montana Bar Admissions Administrator, under the authority of the Montana Supreme Court Commission on Character and Fitness and the Montana Supreme Court Board of Bar Examiners. These entities share responsibility for overseeing the admission process and maintaining the exam’s integrity.

Candidates preparing for the Montana bar exam should be aware that it occurs biannually on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

The exam fee is $310. Candidates also must pay an application fee of $155 to $410, depending on whether they’re a student or an out-of-state attorney.

In order to be eligible for the Montana bar exam, you must satisfy the following criteria per the Rules for Admission to the Bar of Montana:

  • Graduate From an ABA-Approved Law School: Applicants must hold a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). You can verify this by submitting a form from your law school dean, which confirms your graduation at least 30 days before the scheduled bar exam
  • Pass a Character and Fitness Certification: Applicants also must initiate the certification process with Montana’s Commission on Character and Fitness, which involves registering for a background investigation conducted by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). Applicants should promptly address any additional information requests to avoid delays in the certification process, which takes a minimum of 100 days

Note: An applicant who has been unsuccessful in three attempts at the bar exam must petition and receive permission from the Montana Supreme Court before taking the exam again. This petition must include a study plan and an explanation of the steps the applicant has taken — and plans to take — to improve their likelihood of passing the exam.

Montana Exam Structure

In 2013, the state of Montana 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, 266 of which need to be answered correctly in order for a candidate to receive a passing mark.

Moreover, candidates must pass the following supplementary exam and course in order to be eligible for the Montana bar:

  • Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
  • Montana Law Seminar (MLS)

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, Limited Liability Companies, 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.

Montana Law Seminar (MLS)

Applicants seeking admission to the State Bar of Montana must complete the MLS.

Designed to familiarize candidates with the structure of the legal system in Montana, this course covers the unique aspects of Montana law as well as the accepted mores and culture of practicing law within the state.

The fee for the MLS is $155, and applicants have the option to attend it during either of the two administration sessions immediately before or after their bar exam attempt.

Note:  For more information on the MLS, see the State Bar of Montana website.

How to Pass the Montana Bar Exam

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

Montana Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Montana’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 Montana Bar Requirements

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

  1. Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation
  2. Satisfying the MCLE Requirements

1. Passing the Character and Fitness Evaluation

Following the initial background check and document submission, Montana’s Commission on Character and Fitness may request an interview in order to address any concerns or questions raised regarding a candidate’s eligibility and fitness to practice law in the state.

This can include, but is not limited to:

  • A Personal Interview: The commission may conduct an interview to clarify or elaborate on information provided in the application or uncovered during the background investigation. This allows candidates to directly address any areas of concern the commission might have
  • Submission of Additional Documentation or Evidence: Candidates may need to provide further documentation or evidence to support their application or to refute any concerns raised by the commission. This could include letters of recommendation, records of community service, or additional legal documents
  • Participation in Hearings or Meetings: Candidates might have to present their case and respond to inquiries directly from commission members. Candidates have the option to request a private session subject to the panel chair’s determination that the individual’s privacy concerns outweigh the value of public disclosure

Notably, the commission chair has the authority to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses or for the production of documentary evidence. This power helps to ensure that the commission considers all relevant facts and testimonies during the evaluation process.

In the event the commission denies an applicant character and fitness certification, the applicant may reapply for admission to the State Bar of Montana no earlier than four years from the date of the final decision.

Note: Candidates should know the burden of proof regarding their moral character and fitness to practice law rests with them.

2. Satisfying the MCLE Requirements

After gaining admission to the State Bar of Montana, attorneys must complete 15 hours of CLE courses every year.

These hours need to include:

  • Two credit hours from professional fitness and integrity courses, which focus on the ethical and professional responsibilities of the legal profession
  • A minimum of 10 credit hours from participation in live interactive courses, which provide a rich, engaging learning experience through direct interaction and discussion

Keep in mind that attorneys can earn up to five credit hours from a mix of approved activities, such as studying through audio or video materials, engaging in asynchronous online activities, contributing to legal publications, or preparing and teaching CLE courses themselves.

All credits must be earned and reported by March 31 of each year, with a grace period that extends to May 15.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Experienced attorneys from other states or the District of Columbia may gain entry to the State Bar of Montana without taking the bar exam through a process called Admission on Motion.

In addition to having a law degree, passing the MPRE, completing the MLS, and undergoing the character and fitness evaluation, applicants seeking admission on motion must:

  • Provide certificates of good standing from every jurisdiction in which they are — or have been — licensed to practice law
  • Verify they’ve been admitted to practice law through a bar exam in at least one jurisdiction
  • Submit documentation from the disciplinary bodies in each jurisdiction in which they’re licensed, confirming there are no ongoing disciplinary actions or complaints involving them
  • Demonstrate active legal practice for a minimum of five out of the seven years leading up to their application to Montana

Additionally, applicants should be aware that certain disqualifying conditions exist like:

  • Having been denied the right to practice law in Montana or any other jurisdiction for reasons related to character or fitness
  • Having failed the Montana UBE within the five years immediately before their application
  • Engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Montana or any jurisdiction, or having been disbarred or suspended from the practice of law in any jurisdiction for any reason

Note: For more detailed information and further guidance on the admission on motion process, visit the State Bar of Montana website.

Montana Bar Exam FAQ

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

No. To be eligible for the Montana bar exam, applicants must have graduated from an ABA-approved law school. For more Montana bar exam information, we recommend having a look at our Montana Bar Exam article.

How long is the Montana bar exam?

The Montana bar exam takes place over two days. Day one covers the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) while day two focuses on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Interested in learning more? Take a look at our What is the Bar Exam article.

How hard is it to pass the Montana State bar examination?

While challenging, passing the Montana State bar exam is achievable with the right preparation. From the intricacies of the Uniform Commercial Code to the nuances of motion rules, candidates need to engage in a comprehensive study plan that leaves no topic unexplored in order to ensure a thorough understanding of the wide range of legal principles tested.

How much does the Montana bar exam cost?

The cost to take the Montana bar exam is $310. Candidates also must pay an application fee, which is $155 for students and $410 for attorneys. In order to gain admission to the State Bar of Montana, candidates also must complete a Montana Supreme Court-required course that comes with an additional fee of $155.