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Students Ready Themselves for Minnesota Bar Exam

It's the end of July, which means one thing if you’re a law student: the bar exam. The atmosphere in the Law Library evokes that in the stands of Mudville after Casey's swing-and-a-miss: Somewhere folks are laughing. Somewhere children shout. But there's no joy in law land. The bar’s what it’s all about.

The exam is Tuesday and Wednesday, July 24 and 25, in the Grand Ballroom at St. Paul's RiverCentre. Day one consists of the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and six essay questions. Day two features the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).

If misery truly loves company, test-takers might be cheered to know that, across the country, the MBE is administered on the last Wednesday in July. Most states, like Minnesota, also give it on the last Wednesday in February, but a few administer it only once a year.

Each state controls other details of its bar exam. Minnesota students, the situation could be worse. In 12 states, the test lasts two and a half days, and in four states it goes on for three days. Louisiana stretches the agony over a week by scheduling the exam for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The good news: the odds of passing are on your side. Last year, 830 took the July test, and 89% passed. For the 774 of them taking it for the first time, the passing rate was even higher (92%). For University of Minnesota Law School students, the bar exam passing rate has averaged nearly 99% over recent years.

By the way, "passing the bar" does not mean resisting temptation as you cut through Seven Corners on your way to the Law Library. In early-1500s England, lawyers admitted to practice were "called to the bar," or invited to cross a railing that divided officials of the law from students and viewers in the courtroom. The "bar" was real at one time, but today the crossover is symbolic, and being admitted to the bar means being accepted into the body of lawyers. Still today in England, lawyers who appear in court are called "barristers," versus those who just offer counsel, called "solicitors."

Good luck to everyone stepping up to the bar on Tuesday. Remember to bring your white Admission Card and state photo ID, and leave your cell phones, pagers, beeping watches, purses, briefcases, food, and beverages at home or in the car. Your Law School community is rooting for you.