So you’re interested in practicing law in Massachusetts? You probably won’t be surprised to hear that every state has slightly different standards that one has to meet in order to practice. We’re here to help you through all the steps (and intermediate steps) that you’ll need to take to call yourself a Massachusetts lawyer.
1. Complete your Undergraduate Degree
For those looking to practice law in the state of Massachusetts, the first step is obtaining an undergraduate degree. This is the foundation that will prepare you to study law at the graduate level. While majoring in an area such as political science or business is a practical choice for a future lawyer, what you study in undergrad is totally up to you! However, we do recommend taking a class or two on topics related to law or legal history as an introduction to your future profession.
2. Take the LSAT (or GRE!)
Before attending law school, you’ll need to go through the law school application process. Traditionally, law schools have required that you submit Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores with your application. However, recently some admissions departments including New England Law’s have begun to accept Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores in place of LSAT scores.
The LSAT is a two-part exam specifically designed to test individuals who are considering applying to law school. The first part of the test consists of a multiple-choice section including “reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning questions”, and the second portion is a written essay. Exams are held multiple times a year through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC).
The GRE is a more general standardized test. It is typically taken by anyone applying to a wide range of graduate programs. The exam is structured similarly to the LSAT, but questions are split into separate verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing sections. Like the LSAT, there are numerous opportunities to take it throughout the year at a registered test center near you. Currently there is also an option to take the GRE from home.
Once you have a reported test score that your desired law school accepts, you can fill out the school’s application, and once you hear back, make a decision on which program you would like to attend.
3. Earn your Juris Doctor (JD)
After you have applied to different law schools, it’s time to choose which one you will attend. The amount of time that it will take to complete your Juris Doctor (JD) degree depends on the school you have chosen, and whether you are attending full-time or part-time.
Related: Everything You Need to Consider in a Law School
4. Prepare to take the Massachusetts Bar Exam
During the latter years of your JD program you will start to focus on preparing for the next step: taking the bar exam. The bar exam is an exam administered by your state’s bar association that a lawyer must pass in order to practice in that area. Prior to sitting for the bar, you’ll need to schedule and take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The MPRE, most commonly taken during your second year of law school, is a two-hour, 60-question multiple choice exam. A passing MPRE score is required for admission to most state bar associations, Massachusetts included. Once you have passed the MPRE, you are ready to complete your application to sit for the bar exam.
Students who plan to take the bar in Massachusetts will need to file a Petition for Admission by Examination through the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners. When you fill out that application you’ll be applying to take the bar at a specific exam date. Massachusetts only offers the chance to take the bar two times a year, once in February and then in July. Filing periods for each exam date open a few months in advance. Once your application has been approved, let the studying begin!
5. Pass the Massachusetts Bar Exam
The Massachusetts Bar Exam is a two-day exam consisting of three parts: The Multistate Performance Test (MPT), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), and the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). These parts include a mix of multiple choice questions and written components. A total score of 270 or higher is what you need to pass.
After passing the bar itself you’ll also need to complete a separate Massachusetts Law Component (MLC). The MLC is a multiple choice exam on key distinctions and essential highlights of Massachusetts law and procedure. This typically needs to be completed within 30 days of sitting for the bar.
Once a graduate successfully passes the bar exam and satisfies all other admissions requirements they will be contacted by the Supreme Judicial Court regarding formal admission ceremonies.
For the most up-to-date information about taking the bar exam in Massachusetts, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/about-the-bar-exam-in-massachusetts.
6. Maintain your License
In every state there are certain requirements that have to be met in order to maintain your license to practice. In Massachusetts you’re responsible for paying annual bar fees, but will not need to take continuing legal education classes, as some other states require.
It’s no wonder that Massachusetts, and Boston especially, is a hotspot for soon-to-be lawyers/attorneys. The legal opportunities are plentiful, and on top of that, life in Boston isn’t so bad either!