Academic & Bar Success
No matter what a student’s previous education and experiences are, learning to think like a lawyer—let alone write like a lawyer on a law school exam—can be as challenging as it is fascinating.
The Law School and the broader University provide many resources to help students understand their learning style, to prepare for and get the most out of class and, ultimately, to reach their individual potential on law school exams.
Our faculty members support student learning with regular office hours and by inviting questions and feedback from students about their progress in a given course. 1L students also are matched with a faculty advisor (who may or may not also be a 1L course instructor), and that relationship often is fruitful from both a professional and academic perspective.
Talented 2L and 3L students provide academic support and mentoring to new students through the Structured Study Group and Legal Writing programs.
Structured Study Groups
The Structured Study Group (SSG) Program helps students in first-year classes assess and enhance their understanding of key subject areas, including Contracts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Property.
Using varied teaching techniques for a range of learning styles, successful upper-division Supplemental Instructors (or SIs) hold bi-weekly sessions where students practice applying substantive law to new sets of facts, or map key cases and concepts using flow-charts or diagrams. Students also learn skills applicable to other courses, including effective study techniques, outlining, time management, and exam preparation and writing.
SSG sessions are purely voluntary, but highly recommended to assist in the adjustment to law school academic work. In the alternating weeks, SIs hold office hours to assist students one-on-one or in small groups.
Students who struggle with English language grammar and composition (whether native or non-native English speakers) may benefit from additional support within the Law School and University, such as:
Structured Writing Group (SWG)
This optional group is open to all 1Ls through the Legal Writing program and is designed to assist them with their legal writing work. It focuses on the kinds of things that make legal writing different from the academic, creative or informal writing that most students have done before law school. See your Legal Writing instructors for more information.
University of Minnesota Center for Writing
Student Writing Support (SWS) offers free writing instruction for all University of Minnesota students—graduate and undergraduate—at all stages of the writing process. In addition, SWS offers a number of web-based resources on topics such as avoiding plagiarism, documenting sources, and planning and completing a writing project.
Core Grammar for Lawyers (CGL)
The Law School has CGL licenses available at a reduced cost to law students who are interested in improving or perfecting their English grammar skills. CGL consists of a pre-test, lessons and exercises, and a post-test. To participate, contact the Legal Writing program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any student whose native language is not English, an instructor specializing in legal writing and ESL (English as a Second Language) provides International Student Writing Support, as well as referrals to other appropriate resources within the University and beyond.
International Student Writing Support Program
The International Student Writing Support (ISWS) Program provides one-on-one assistance to students in the Law School for whom English is not a native language. Support is available for both LL.M. and international J.D. students to discuss their writing assignments and written work, and in the following areas:
- Structuring and organizing ideas
- Using accurate English grammar and word choice
- Writing clearly and concisely
- Applying proofreading strategies
- Understanding the essential elements of American legal writing
Students with questions about this program should contact Karen A. Lundquist, Assistant Professor of ESL and Legal Skills, at email@example.com.
Students for whom English is a non-native language may also be interested in additional resources both at the University and online, such as:
- Student Writing Support through the Center for Writing: ESL specialists there can assist with grammar and usage, but not substantive material.
- ESL Coursework through the College of Continuing Education: credit-based and non-credit courses for undergraduate and graduate students.
- Many online sources for students wishing to improve English language skills. Particularly recommended is Purdue’s OWL (Online Writing Lab) website. The site includes exercise pages for practice, as well as specific resources for non-native English users.
Bar Success Program
Our bar preparation program is designed for you—an extra boost to ensure you succeed on exam day.
We can help you target opportunities on MBE subjects, boost your essay scores with helpful feedback, and help you manage stress and anxiety on exam day.
This one-time assessment, provided to third-year J.D. students in the summer and to LL.M. students in fall, is sent via your official University email account to clarify your progress towards degree requirements. It is critical that you review this assessment in conjunction with your unofficial transcript, Law School Academic Rules, and degree requirements.
Graduating students must complete an Application for Degree through the University’s MyU website. To reach the application, go to MyU > Academics > Degree Progress > Apply to Graduate.
Applying to Sit for the Bar Exam
Taking the bar exam is a two-step process: applying to sit for the bar exam and then taking the bar exam. Our Bar Success Program helps students throughout the entire process.
During law school, students are able to attend information sessions and workshops, including an information session with the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners. Students also attend roundtable discussions with recent graduates, where they discuss how to prepare for the bar exam.
After graduation, our bar success program provides regular workshops, practice exams, preparation sessions, and individualized assistance to ensure all of our graduates are prepared for the exam.
Bar Exam Overview
Applying for the bar in Minnesota and other states is an extensive and time-consuming process. Admission requirements vary by state, and students are urged to research the requirements, timelines, and standards for the bar(s) of the state(s) in which they intend to apply at least six months before the scheduled exam date.
Some states, including Ohio, require degree candidates to confirm intent to apply to the bar more than a year before graduation. The Registrar’s Office formally requests information from students about their bar plans during spring semester in order to facilitate certification after graduation.
A comprehensive guide to the bar application process is available at: http://www.ncbex.org/bar-admissions. Information about application to the Minnesota bar is available at: http://www.ble.state.mn.us.
Certification of Graduation
State bars require that the Law School certify applicants as having met all J.D. degree requirements in order to sit for the bar exam. The Law School Registrar’s Office tracks the deadlines and certification requirements for each state to which graduates intend to apply, and keeps detailed lists of certifications by state and by student. State bar certification forms are prepared by the Registrar’s Office based on information from student records and responses to the Graduation, Commencement, and Bar Plans survey. Certifications are forwarded to the Dean or Dean’s delegate for signature, and then submitted directly to the bar examiners in each state.
Students applying for the bar outside of Minnesota should submit the appropriate state bar certification form(s)—with all necessary applicant information completed—to the Registrar’s Office no later than May 1st for summer bar exams, or January 10th for February bar exams. The Registrar’s Office carefully tracks the bar certification deadlines for each state bar in order to ensure that completed certifications are received in a timely fashion.
If a bar applicant has not completed all J.D. degree requirements, the Law School cannot forward a bar certification, and the applicant may not be able to sit for the bar exam. Students with incomplete coursework are responsible for finishing all required assignments, and for following up with the faculty member and Registrar’s Office to ensure a grade is entered. Incompletes that are unresolved after one year will be recorded as “F” grades.
Character and Fitness Evaluation Process
The Character and Fitness evaluation process is a critical part of bar admission in most states, and students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the expectations for practice early in their law school careers. All students should carefully review the character and fitness requirements for the state in which they intend to practice. Representatives of the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners also address students at the beginning and end of their educational experience.
- More information available at: http://www.ncbex.org/character-and-fitness
- Minnesota’s Character and Fitness evaluation process, visit: http://ble.state.mn.us/character-and-fitness
- For admissions standards in other states, consult the applicable state bar admissions website.
Student records, including law school applications, may be reviewed by the Board of Law Examiners as part of the Character and Fitness evaluation process. Inconsistencies between the information disclosed on a student’s law school application and his or her bar application may subject the applicant to further scrutiny, and require an amendment to his or her law school application. Students who have disciplinary or criminal problems that occur after they begin law school are also required to amend their applications. For information on this process, review the Law School’s application amendment policy (available on the Administrative Policies webpage) and consult the Dean of Students office.
Other bar admission questions and concerns of a confidential nature may also be addressed to the Dean of Students Office, the Director of Bar Support, or directly to the bar authority in the state where the student expects to practice. Students are especially encouraged to seek consultation early in their law school career if they have a history of alcohol or chemical dependency, criminal matters, academic misconduct, significant mental health impairments, or other concerns that may relate to the ability to meet the requirements of practice.
Students should note that no single condition or incident will automatically prevent admission to the bar; rather, bar examiners encourage students to directly address and treat any condition that may lead to a conduct concern or impair an individual’s ability to comply with practice standards. Some states, including Minnesota, have also introduced a Conditional Admissions process, which allows a bar applicant with recent impairments to be admitted to practice under certain conditions and supervision. Evidence of current fitness and rehabilitation from past impairments are often important considerations in the Character and Fitness evaluation process. Therefore, seeking appropriate support or treatment is strongly encouraged.
Minnesota Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is an independent non-profit organization that provides support, advice, mentoring, and referrals to law students or bar applicants who have struggled with impairments that may impact fitness to practice.
The bar exam tests a wide range of legal subjects and skills, including some subjects that applicants may not have previously covered in law school coursework. Minnesota is one of many jurisdictions that uses the Uniform Bar Exam. However, there are a number of states that still use a state-specific bar exam.
Regardless of the jurisdiction, the Law School strongly encourages all students to prepare using a commercial bar preparation course. Each commercial bar preparation course tailors substantive study materials, practice exercises, and timelines to enable applicants to succeed on the bar exam. First time bar passage rates for applicants who take and complete a commercial bar course are significantly higher than for those who do not take or substantially complete a course.
The Law School also has a bar success program that is available to all graduates. While not a substitute for a commercial bar preparation course, our bar success program provides a robust compliment to a commercial course. Our program includes a series of skills based workshops, practice exams, and one-one guidance to help our graduates succeed on the exam.
Students are encouraged to plan ahead to research and sign up for a reputable bar course, arrange work and personal schedules to accommodate significant study time in the two months before the exam, and to plan for costs of bar study and living expenses before the exam.