Vermont Bar Exam

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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Vermont Bar Exam

Passing the Vermont 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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Vermont Bar Exam Overview

The Vermont Board of Bar Examiners (the Board), under the auspices of the Vermont Supreme Court, administers the bar exam.

The bar exam takes place twice a year on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.

Prospective candidates must ensure they submit their applications by December 1 for the February exam or May 1 for the July exam.

Applicants also must pay a $300 exam fee with late submissions subject to an additional $50 charge.

Keep in mind that that in order to be eligible for the VT bar exam, you will need to satisfy the following criteria according to the Rules of Admission to the Bar of the Vermont Supreme Court:

  1. ABA-Approved Law School Study (JD Graduates): Eligibility requires a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) for the duration of the candidate’s enrollment.
  2. Law Office Study: Candidates also can qualify through a four-year apprenticeship in a law office under the direct supervision of a Vermont attorney or judge. This alternative route is designed for those who prefer practical, supervised legal education over traditional law school. Importantly, these applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an institution of higher education accredited by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education.
  3. Unaccredited Law School Study: For graduates of law schools not accredited by the ABA, Vermont permits eligibility through a demonstration of educational equivalency. This involves showing that your legal education meets or exceeds the foundational standards of ABA-accredited institutions.
  4. Early Examination: The Early Examination route permits students at ABA-approved law schools, who’re close to completing their legal education, to take the bar exam before graduating. To qualify, students must complete five semesters of full-time study and provide both an official transcript and a confirmation letter from their law school.

Applicants must take the bar exam within five years of their graduation from law school or completion of the Law Office Study program.

Vermont Exam Structure

In 2016, the state of Vermont 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, 270 of which need to be answered correctly in order for a candidate to receive a passing mark.

Moreover, candidates must achieve a scaled score of 80 or higher on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) in order to be eligible for the Vermont 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 Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam 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 Vermont Bar Exam

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

Vermont Bar Exam Tips

Despite the infamous difficulty of Vermont’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 Contract Law, 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 Vermont Bar Requirements

Apart from qualifying for and passing the Vermont 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:

  1. Passing the Character and Fitness Review
  2. Satisfying the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Requirements
  3. Fulfilling the Mentorship Requirement

1. Passing the Character and Fitness Review

After an applicant passes the bar exam, the Character and Fitness Committee (the Committee) conducts a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation to ascertain the applicant’s suitability for admission to the bar.

The investigation delves into the applicant’s past conduct to uncover any elements that might question their moral character and fitness. This could include issues related to criminal history, financial irresponsibility, ethical breaches, or any other conduct that could affect their ability to serve as a trustworthy and competent attorney.

It’s the applicant’s responsibility to demonstrate their past actions don’t impede their current ability to meet the essential eligibility requirements for the practice of law.

Should the Committee have any reservations about an applicant’s moral character or fitness, it has the authority to call for a hearing. At this stage, the applicant is entitled to legal representation and may present evidence and arguments to support their case for good moral character and fitness.

Notably, applicants may appeal the decisions emerging from these hearings to the Vermont Supreme Court. This appellate process provides an essential layer of review to uphold fairness and thoroughness in evaluating an applicant’s character and fitness.

Note: An applicant denied a certification of good moral character and fitness isn’t eligible to apply for admission to the bar for a period of two years after the denial.

2. Satisfying the CLE Requirements

Newly admitted attorneys in Vermont must complete 15 hours of CLE specifically tailored to cover the laws, court procedures, and legal practices unique to Vermont.

New attorneys must fulfill this requirement no earlier than one year before and no later than one year after admission to the bar.

At least nine of the required 15 hours must occur within in-person or interactive programming sessions.

Note: For additional insights into fulfilling your CLE obligations and to explore resources approved by the Vermont Bar Association, visit the Vermont Judiciary’s page on First-Year Requirements for Newly Admitted Attorneys.

3. Fulfilling the Mentorship Requirement

In addition to CLE, attorneys admitted to the bar must undergo a six-month mentorship with a judge or attorney who’s been a member of the Vermont bar for at least three years.

This requirement was established after the Vermont Supreme Court voted for its implementation, and aims to complement the foundational knowledge gained through CLE. It seeks to enhance attorneys’ capabilities, providing them with the practical experience and guidance essential for navigating the intricacies of Vermont’s legal system.

New attorneys must complete this mentorship program within the first year after their admission to the bar and can’t begin it until after they receive notification of passing the bar exam.

This program requires a minimum of 10 meetings with the supervising judge or attorney during the six-month period with participants having to complete at least 40 hours of activities outlined in the Mentorship Program List.

Note: New attorneys shouldn’t view this mentorship merely as a formal requirement. Instead, it’s a valuable opportunity for them to gain practical insights, foster professional relationships, and establish a supportive network within the Vermont legal community.

Admission on Motion (Reciprocity)

Attorneys currently licensed and in good standing in another US jurisdiction have the opportunity to apply for admission to the Vermont bar without the need to take the bar exam through a process called admission on motion or reciprocity.

To qualify for admission without examination in Vermont, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Active License and Good Standing: They must be actively licensed, in good standing, and not currently suspended or disbarred from practice in any other US jurisdiction
  • Engagement in Practice of Law: They must have been actively engaged in the practice of law for at least five of the 10 years immediately preceding their application
  • Bar Exam Requirements: They must not have failed the Vermont bar exam or scored lower than 270 on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) within the five years immediately before applying

Keep in mind that there are no specific educational prerequisites for this route to admission.

When applying for admission on motion, applicants should include a Certificate of Good Standing from every jurisdiction, including federal jurisdictions, where they have ever been admitted.

Note: According to Rule 14 of the Rules of Admission to the Bar of the Vermont Supreme Court, attorneys applying for admission on motion from Maine or New Hampshire only have to demonstrate three years of active legal practice instead of the standard five-year requirement. This adjustment is contingent upon the equivalent rules in Maine and New Hampshire remaining in effect.

For more detailed guidance on the application process, refer to Rules 14 and 15 of the Rules of Admission to the Bar of the Vermont Supreme Court.

Vermont Bar Exam FAQ

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

Yes, Vermont offers a Law Office Study program that allows candidates to qualify for the bar exam through a four-year apprenticeship with a Vermont attorney or judge. While this pathway bypasses traditional law school, it does require the prior completion of a bachelor’s degree and adherence to specific guidelines outlined by the Vermont Supreme Court.

How long is the Vermont bar exam?

The Vermont bar exam, which follows the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) format, is conducted over two days. Day one involves the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) while day two features the 200-question Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Interested in learning more? Check out our What is the Bar Exam article.

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

Passing the Vermont state bar exam is notably challenging, demanding comprehensive preparation and a broad understanding of legal principles. To increase your chances of passing on the first attempt, make sure to familiarize yourself with the Vermont bar exam format.

How much does the Vermont bar exam cost?

The Vermont bar exam costs $300. If you miss the regular application deadlines — Dec. 1 for the February exam and May 1 for the July exam — you’ll incur a $50 late fee. For more Vermont bar exam information, see our Vermont Bar Exam article.