The bar exam is the culmination of your legal education, the moment you've been waiting for. With all the energy put into getting into law school, doing well in your classes, looking for work, and preparing for the test itself, you may be unprepared for the stress of simply waiting to hear whether you have passed.
Each state has its own bar exam and the process and timing for receiving result varies significantly. The following article provides an overview of bar exam results and managing the period between taking the test and learning how well you did.
The number of applicants for admission to the state bar has a big impact on the turnaround time for bar results. There are lots of applicants to the New York bar, for example, nearly 15,000 in 2016. As a result it can take nearly six months to get your results. Scheduling a swearing-in ceremony can take another couple of months, meaning that nearly a year can pass between sitting for the bar and admission to practice.
By way of comparison, only a couple hundred people sit for the Montana bar. Results are typically provided weeks later and those who pass the bar can be admitted to practice just a couple months after the exam.
Nearly all state bars send bar results by mail. Some states also provide the information by email or by posting the results on the state bar's website. Where results are provided publicly, the identities of the applicants are typically protected by listing results according to seat number or another identifier other than the person's name.
Managing Work While You Wait
Apart from managing your stress during the period in which you are awaiting bar exam results, you may also need to manage your employer's expectations. Most legal employers will understand and sympathize with your waiting period and some employers will even keep you on for a second attempt if you don't pass the bar the first time around, but clear communication about your status is important for both you and your boss.
Until you have received your bar results and have been admitted to practice, there are many legal functions you won't be able to perform. You can't provide legal advice or make a court appearance without admission to practice. This doesn't mean that you'll be totally useless. Most attorneys fill a paralegal function prior to admission, assisting in the drafting of motions and briefs and doing a lot of the other grunt work in a law office.
Bar Association Exam Result Information by State
Get Additional Guidance
Even after taking the bar there are a lot of issues that can arise. Whether you are concerned about your state's character and fitness requirements, want to contest a failed bar exam, or are still searching for your first law job you'll need solid advice. Check back with FindLaw's Law Students section for guidance on these and other topics of interest to new attorneys.